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Contested Worlds: An Introduction to Human Geography
 0754670317, 9780754670315

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Contested Worlds An Introduction to Human Geography

E dited by M A R TIN PH ILLIPS Senior Lecturer in G eography, U niversity o f L eicester

Q Routledge

Taylor & Francis Group


First published 2005 by Ashgate Publishing Published 2017 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon 0X14 4RN 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA Routledge is an imprint o f the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business Copyright © Martin Phillips 2005 Martin Phillips has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the editor of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Contested worlds : an introduction to human geography 1. Human geography I. Phillips, Martin, 1961­ 304.2

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Contested worlds : an introduction to human geography / edited by Martin Phillips, p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index ISBN 0-7546-4112-0 1. Human geography. I. Phillips, Martin, 1961 GF41.C576 2005 304.2—dc22 2004056936 ISBN 13: 978-0-7546-7031-5 (pbk) Typeset by Saxon Graphics Ltd, Derby


List o f Boxes List o f Figu res List o f Figures (in Boxes) List o f Tables List o f Tables (in Boxes) List o f Plates List o f Plates (in Boxes) List o f Contributors

vii ix xi xiii jc v

xvii xix xxi




Contested Worlds: An Introduction Martin Phillips



Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography Martin Phillips


Unravelling the Web of Theory: Changing Geographical Perspectives on Development Ed Brown


87 89


Global Crises? Issues in Population and the Environment Hazel Barrett and Angela Browne



Nation States and Super-States: The Geopolitics of the New World Order Peter Vujakovic




Inequalities at the Core: A Discussion of Regionality in the EU and UK Keith Hoggart Southeast Asian Development: Miracle or Mirage Mark Cleary

189 191


Contested Worlds

vi 8

Post-Socialist East and Central Europe Craig Young


Places on the Margin: The Spatiality of Exclusion Phil Hubbard


287 289

10 People in the Centre? The Contested Geographies of ‘Gentrification’ Martin Phillips




People in a Marginal Periphery David Cook and Martin Phillips



12 Still Just Introducing the Contested Worlds of Human Geography Martin Phillips






List of Boxes

2.1: 2.2: 2.3: 2.4: 2.5: 2.6: 2.7: 2.8: 2.9: 2.10: 2.11: 2.12: 3.1: 3.2: 3.3: 3.4: 3.5: 3.6: 3.7: 3.8: 4.1: 4.2: 4.3: 4.4: 4.5:

Comtean positivism Behavioural approaches to geography Phenomenology Existentialism Idealism Pragmaticism and symbolic interactionism Gidden’s structuration theory Realism Regulation theory Actor-network theory Feminist geography Chapter summary and suggestions for further reading The concept of the Third World Dimensions of development theory Aspects of modernization theory Varieties of dependency analysis The Lost Development Decade: The crisis of the 1980s Structural Adjustment Programmes The power of language - discourses and deconstruction Chapter summary and suggestions for further reading The population-food debate The concept of carrying capacity in population geography Boserup’s optimistic thesis The Machakos story Economic factors which may produce a Boserupian response to population growth 4.6: The PPE spiral in Eastern Zambia 4.7: Caldwell’s theory of intergenerational wealth flows 4.8: Women and the environment: The Green Belt Movement in Kenya 4.9: Chapter summary and suggestions for further reading 5.1: Technical networks and territorial control 5.2: Coastal states and control of the seas 5.3: Nationalism and the state 5.4: Croatian national iconography and T h e Sleeping Beauty Complex’ 5.5: Scripting the New World Order 5.6: Mapping a Greater Russia 5.7: Mapping the ‘Forth Reich’ - Scripting the German threat 5.8: Black Sea Economic Co-operation Zone 5.9: Pan-regions 5.10: Antarctica: From real-estate to world park

21 27 29 31 32 33 48 49 51 56 61 84 89 91 95 101 105 109 119 126 131 133 137 138 142 144 147 148 151 154 159 161 164 167 173 176 179 180 185

viii 5.11: 6.1: 6.2: 6.3: 6.4: 6.5: 6.6: 6.7: 6.8: 6.9: 6.10: 6.11: 7.1: 7.2: 7.3: 7.4: 7.5: 7.6: 7.7: 7.8: 8.1: 8.2: 8.3: 8.4: 9.1: 9.2: 9.3: 9.4: 9.5: 9.6: 9.7: 10.1: 10.2: 10.3: 10.4: 10.5: 10.6: 10.7: 11.1: 11.2: 11.3: 11.4: 11.5: 11.6

Contested Worlds Chapter summary and suggestions for further reading Class, power and status Social well-being Non-events and social inequality - air pollution in Gary, Indiana Inequalities as interpretations: The case of New Haven’spower structure Miller’s paradox Traumas of EU accession The shift to market economies and economic trauma in eastern Europe 1980s short-termism and the long-term impacts on the UK economy Hymer’s model of corporate organisation Fordism and post-Fordism Chapter summary and suggestions for further reading Flexible production strategies ASEAN Tropical rainforests in Southeast Asia Colonialism in Southeast Asia Timber and tribes Urban planning in Singapore Green revolution Chapter summary and suggestions for further reading Communism, socialism and state-socialism Key processes in the fall of Eastern European state-socialism (after Ramet 1995) The key characteristics of post-socialist transformation Chapter summary and suggestions for further reading Marginalisation The Chicago School The post-modern city Social purification The underclass Social polarisation Chapter summary and suggestions for further reading Gentrification, urban filtering and the growth of the middle class The False Creek Development and the ‘ideology of consumption’ The consequences o f ‘redlining’ The rent gap and the cyclical flows of capital flows Gentrification beyond gentrified theory: The working class and the gentrification of Tompkin Square Gay gentrification Chapter summary and suggestions for further reading Key concepts within British community studies Counterurbanisation and the growing significance of the rural Farmer responses to the restructuring of New Zealand’s political-economy Pakeha and Maori geographies Possession of land: Pakeha and Maori conceptions Chapter summary and suggestions for further reading

187 192 192 193 194 195 203 206 210 213 214 226 229 230 234 235 240 242 245 250 251 266 270 285 290 291 294 298 303 310 316 322 324 330 335 338 342 350 356 358 374 383 389 399

List of Figures

4.1: 4.2: 4.3: 4.4: 5.1: 5.2: 5.3: 5.4: 6.1: 6.2: 6.3: 7.1: 9.1: 9.2: 9.3: 10.1: 10.2: 11.1: 11.2: 11.3: 11.4: 11.5:

The positive effects of population growth Harrison’s political-economy model The poverty-population-environment spiral The socio-economic context of gender-environment relationships Brazilian highways Break-up of Yugoslavia Make-up of the European Union Japan gas attacks The location of the headquarters of the largest 500 manufacturing firms in Europe, 1994 Average annual percentage growth in GDP by region, 1983-1993 GDP per capita by region, 1993 Southeast Asia The ‘black’ bantustans (or homelands) established in the apartheid era by the 1951 Bantu Authorities Act Bronx Health Authority Area ‘No-go Britain’: Problem estates in Britain Urban filtering and the socio-spatial structure of the city: A positivist imagery The spread of gentrification across the Lower East Side, New York New Zealand’s principal exports, 1885-1995 Dairy factories in the Waikato in the early twentieth century Rural/urban population in Aotearoa/New Zealand, 1945-1996 Changing urban and rural distributions The coalfields of the Waikato

141 142 145 150 159 163 175 184 198 201 202 233 293 306 308 320 332 363 379 381 388 392

List of Figures (in Boxes)

B3.2: B3.3: B4. la: B4. lb: B4.2a-c: B5.1a: B5.1b: B5.2: B5.6 B5.7: B5.8: B5.9: B5.10: B7.4: B7.6: B 10.2: B 10.4:

Development concepts, theories and strategies Contrasts between Underdeveloped and Developed societies as identified by Hoselitz Malthus’ theory of population and food supply Population and food: Key relationships in the modem neo-Malthusian case The relationship between population growth and carrying capacity Communications system in the German Empire, 1914 Major motorways in the European Union in the 1990s The Spratly Islands in the South China Sea Zhironovsky’s vision for Europe Empires and the partitioning of Europe Black Sea Economic Co-operation Zone The pan-regions of the world National claims on Antarctica European colonies in the Southeast Pacific The concept plans for Singapore Vancouver - False Creek The rent-gap and cycles of investment and dis-investment

92 96 131 132 134 155 156 160 173 177 179 180 186 235 243 324 335

List of Tables

2.1: 4.1: 5.1: 5.2: 6.1: 6.2: 6.3: 6.4: 6.5: 7.1: 8.1:

Notions of structure Population characteristics of major world regions Armed forces and military expenditure in selected Arab states Potential Super-Powers? - Defence expenditure, 2000 GDP per head in the richest and poorest regions of the EU, 1993 Structural fund allocations, 1994-1999 Gross Domestic Product per head, 1975-1994 (EU12=100) Location of corporate headquarters of the largest European companies Income distribution within European countries and the USA Basic indicators The contrasting characteristics of state-socialist economies and flexible capitalism in the 1980s and 1990s 8.2: Key characteristics of selected post-socialist countries in the former Eastern Europe and USSR 9.1: Relative acceptability of human service facilities, United States 9.2: Social characteristics of Great Britain, 13 ‘riot’ estates and 20 ‘unpopular’ estates from 1991 Census of Population 10.1: The place of origin of ‘gentrifers’ in three US cities 11.1: Indicators of rural marginality 11.2: Distribution of adult population by gender and settlement type, 1874

46 128 15 8 171 200 205 206 216 225 230 271 272 300 312 333 361 386

List of Tables (in Boxes)

B3.3: Rostow’s stages of economic growth B3.5: Macro-economic indicators in sub-Saharan Africa B3.6: Major policy strategies and instruments of Structural Adjustment Programmes B7.4: Dates of independence from Colonial powers

97 106 109 236

List of Plates

6.1: 6.2: 6.3: 8.1: 8.2: 8.3: 8.4: 9.1: 10.1: 10.2: 10.3: 11.1: 11.2: 11.3: 11.4: 11.5: 11.6: 11.7: 11.8:

Turning to Europe The end of the North-South divide? The North-South divide re-established? An example of a political poster from the USSR (1976) The Palace of Science and Culture, Warsaw, Poland A tourist examines one of the massive Communist era statues now on display in the Statue Park museum, Budapest, Hungary The symbolism of international capital overlays the visible legacy of the state-socialist built environment Wood End, Coventry: Police attempt to prevent the spread of public unrest ‘On safari’ in the gentrified city Selling nature in the gentrified city American West and idyllic rural England in the promotion of gentrification Touristic pastoral imagery Clearance of the Bush Clear, green, fresh New Zealand Te Poi Memorial Hall and Big Cows Main Road, Rotowaro, 1987 and 1989 Return to nature/erasure of history Relocation of Rotowaro house to Maori ancestral lands, 1987 Meeting of the Rotowaro Branch of the Country Women’s Institute, Huntly, 1999

220 222 223 262 264 280 284 309 346 347 348 368 370 372 380 394 395 397 398

List of Plates (in Boxes)

10.2a: Disused factory and derelict landscape on the South Side of False Creek 10.2b: The postmodern cityscape of the False Creek Development 10.2c: Science World on the bank of False Creek 10.2d: The emerging high-rise cityscape of ‘global city’ Vancouver

325 326 327 227

List of Contributors

Dr. Hazel Barrett

School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Coventry University, Coventry C V 1 5FB

Dr. Angela Browne

School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Coventry University, Coventry CV 1 5FB

Dr. Ed Brown

Department of Geography, Loughborough University, Loughborough LEI 1 3TU

Professor Mark Cleary

Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Plymouth

David Cook

Department of Media Arts, The Waikato Polytechnic, Private Bag 3036, Hamilton 2020, New Zealand

Professor Keith Hoggart

Department of Geography, Kings College, University of London, London WC2R 2LS

Dr. Phil Hubbard

Department of Geography, Loughborough University, Loughborough LEI 1 3TU

Dr. Martin Phillips

Department of Geography, University of Leicester, Leicester LEI 7RH

Dr. Peter Vujakovic

Department of Geography and Tourism, Canterbury Christchurch University College, Canterbury CT1 1QU

Dr. Craig Young

Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, M l 5GD

Part One: Introduction

Chapter 1

Contested Worlds: An Introduction M artin Phillips

Worlds of Contest: An Introduction This book will explore the contested worlds of contemporary human geography. As has become very evident over the course completing this book, the world is full of contests and contestations, many of which are violent and bloody. When this book was initially commissioned, the thought of two aeroplanes being flown into and demolishing one of the world’s largest buildings and causing the death of some 2,700 people was to most people unimaginable. It was widely argued that the end of the ‘Cold War’ between East and West would herald the onset of a period of world peace. However, since that time there has been two ‘Gulf Wars’ (1990, 2003), the second of which was rhetorically linked to a wider ‘War on terrorism’ and which also involved an invasion of Afghanistan in 2002. There have also been a series of ‘Balkan Wars’ in the 1990s, plus a host of other ‘civil’ wars in places such as Eritrea, Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda. Rather than being a period of peace, the late twentieth and early twenty-first century might be characterised as a period of widening warfare, terror­ ism, genocide and torture. Contests do not necessarily take such violent forms, and many are much more benign. In sport, for example, contests connect with spectacles and rituals, although increasingly sport is connected to other forms of contest, which although in a sense non­ violent in that there is no actual or implied use of physical force, could be seen as highly violent in having all manner of dramatic consequences on people’s livelihoods and lifestyles. These other contests are those that revolve around competition between firms for market shares, lower costs and continued profits, and also between politicians for peoples’ votes and support. There are also contestations between people with different sets of beliefs and attitudes. Although these may at times connect to the previously mentioned forms of contests, and also to ideological debates and conflict, at other times they may simply lead to indifference, inactivity and silence as people fail to recognise the needs, aspirations and indeed presence of people who are in some manner different from themselves. People may inhabit physical locations which are proximate spatially and temporally but they live in quite different circumstances and, for a series of differ­ ent reasons, in effect inhabit quite different worlds. The contested nature of the contemporary world, or indeed worlds, has often been filtered out from geographical accounts. Philo (1991) has suggested that much of geography over the last 50 years has been frightened of considering things which ‘maybe have worryingly “political overtones’” , preferring instead to seek out some ‘uncontestable geography’ (Whittlesey 1945). However, Philo suggests that this


Contested Worlds

restriction, along with a distrust of studying intangible things, has come to be chal­ lenged and replaced by less restricted visions of geography. Many of these visions, particularly those linked to notions of radical or critical geography, might be seen to be infused as much by some form of ‘imagination of power’ (Said 1986) as by any particular ‘geographical imagination’. This neglect of contestation is problematic given that many contests can be seen to be, in one way or another, highly geographical. Acts of warfare, terrorism, genocide and torture, for example, are often connected to territorial conflicts, with people seeking to gain access to particular areas of space and/or expel other people from particular places. Violent conflicts may also relate to access to particular aspects of nature, and hence may be seen as geographical if one ascribes to the notion that geog­ raphy is about people-nature relations (see Unwin 1992). The more benign forms of social contest can also be seen as having clear geographical dimensions, not least in that they are often organised using spatial distinctions. Not only do many sports make use of spatial zones or positionings but sports are often organised according to spatial areas of various scales in that there are national, regional and local teams and competitions. Furthermore the spatial scale at which sport is being practised may be shifting, with growth in the number and spatial extent of international competitions: in rugby, for instance, recent years have seen the creation of world, hemispherical and continental competitions. Furthermore, as MacEwan (2001) notes, many national leagues, such as the English soccer Premiership, have become increasingly globalised through the employment of players from other countries. MacEwan adds that localised differences in sport do remain, and it is also evident that shifts towards more globalised forms is often the subject of varied contestations. In Britain, for example, ‘local’ supporters often complain about the presence of overseas players in ‘their club’ and about the impacts that competing in ‘overseas’ competitions has on performances in ‘domestic’ leagues and tournaments, while concerns have also been expressed about the impacts of these changes on the performances of ‘national’ teams. The practices of sport may well be becoming more globalised, but for many people national, regional and local identities and performances still matter greatly. Economic and political contests are also played out through geography. Competing firms, for example, are often differentiated spatially, both through being sited in potentially quite different areas, and also through fragmenting their activities and placing them into different areas, a process, which Massey (1984) characterises as a spatial division o f labour. Massey and a series of other geographers have explored the reasons for these divisions, and also highlighted how these divisions have often been reformulated as firms seek to gain some competitive advantage over their rivals. As well as spatial divisions of labour, there are spatial divisions in markets and in the regulation of economies. A classic view of a market, which according to people such as Walker (1988) still underpins much contemporary economic thinking, is of a bounded place - a market-place - in which buyers and sellers become physically co­ present in order to fix prices and enact exchange. Such markets may now be seen as quite anachronistic and instead we are seen to live in a world of global markets, whereby goods, services and money are bought and sold across fast distances and also at increasing speed. Authors such as Harvey (1989) have argued that the



contemporary world is experiencing time-space compression, while others such as Lash and Urry (1994) have argued that people now live in a world o f flows, many of which are increasingly globalised. However, once again, the movement towards what is often characterised as globalisation (see Daniels et al. 2001) is contested, and contested in a number of quite difference ways. One aspect of contestation is concern over the impacts of globalisation: the late 1990s and early years of the 21 st century have, for instance, seen a series of demon­ strations against globalisation. Much is made in these protests about power and how globalisation may entail a reduction in people’s abilities to influence what goes on the particular places where they live, work, think and play, and there are calls to create more localised forms of economic and social interaction. Less dramatically, a series of academics have sought to contest the idea that people are living in a world of global flows and interactions (e.g. Hirst and Thompson, 1996; Scott, 1997). Amongst the arguments that have been made is that not everywhere in the world is equally part of the world of the global economy. This economy is a capitalist one, which means, amongst other things, that things only flow to those that have the money to purchase commodities. As I have outlined elsewhere (Phillips and Mighall 2000), this feature means that some people are denied access to many of the commodities of the glob­ alised economy, including that most basic of products, food. Furthermore, as people such as Corbridge (1993), Castells (1998), and Thrift and Leyshon (1997) have high­ lighted, there exists areas across the world where people are deemed not to have suffi­ cient money to borrow money; as such these areas and the people living in them have become divorced from the global money economy. Geographers have arguably been slow to recognise and represent how these people cope - or do not cope - with such a positioning beyond the limits of capitalism. Politics also makes use of space in that it is frequently constituted territorially. That is, it makes use of spatial striations such as zones or districts. This use may be just for administrative purposes or to may be used to create systems of representation and accountability, as in Britain where people elect a ‘local representative’ who then, supposedly, represents the interests of ‘their constituency’ in systems of national, regional and local government. There are divisions of responsibility and accountabil­ ity being created within and between the systems of government, and these them­ selves have been the subject of contestation, and indeed have been repeatedly reworked, not always in any one clear direction. In recent years, for example, there has been moves to create more local and regional systems of government, to foster more interaction between units of government (so-called ‘joined-up government’), to create new national forms of government, and to establish heightened levels of supra­ national governance. Amongst the reasons why changes in systems of representation and decision­ making are often contested is that they transgress existing spatial associations that people have made with other people and with particular territorial complexes. In other words, people come to live in geographically constituted imagined communities (B. Anderson 1991), whereby they feel they have some common bond or interest with others in an area even though they may never have met them and indeed will never be able to meet with all but a minute proportion of them; and/or, feel a sense of place attachment in that they come to value various attributes located in a particular area. Imagined communities and place attachments can take a variety of forms, can be

Contested Worlds


formed in a variety of ways, and are subject to contestation. Jess and Massey, for instance, have suggested that ‘issues of place’ have ‘become both more salient and more fraught’ with senses and identities of place being, frequently disputed - sometimes by groups living in ‘the same’ place, sometimes between ‘insiders’ [who may feel that they belong to or are part of a particular place or community] and ‘outsiders’ [who may feel excluded from being a member of a place or community], sometimes in ways which open to question all of these categories (Jess and Massey 1995: 134).

Not only are there all manner of geographical contests occurring in the contemporary world, but their outcomes affect the worlds in which people live. The potential of political and military contests to change the lives of people caught up in them appears quite obvious, although arguably they figure relatively little in geographical accounts, at least those concerned with the present. There has, however, been a growing recog­ nition by geographers about the military and political conquest of space, place and nature associated with European imperialism and colonialism, and the often devastat­ ing impacts this often had on the human and non-human populations (see Godlewska and Smith 1994; Mannion 1997; Phillips and Mighall 2000). Success and failure in the market place has figured rather more strongly in the pages of human geography texts, as indeed has sport. A series of studies (e.g. Bradley 1990; Kotler et al. 1993; Williams 1997), for example, have highlighted how success on the sporting field can bring huge benefits to some people and to some areas; conversely failures may have serious financial problems as well as personal disap­ pointments. This points to the increasing commodification of sport and also in some cases to the processes of globalisation mentioned earlier. The combination of these two sets of processes can, indeed, be seen to be affecting all sorts of aspects of social life, bringing with it all manner of geographically related processes. Taking on board Massey et a V s (1999: 2) claim that ‘human geography’s take on the world derives from its standing on the ground of the triad of space-place-nature’, then by way of illustrations one might, first, point to how success and failures in globalised commod­ ity production have contributed to processes of social-spatial differentiation which have both accentuated and reconfigured existing spatial divisions, such as those of city and countryside, First and Third Worlds, East and West, rich and poor regions. Second, fortunes in globalised commodity production have knock-on effects which contribute to the construction of new forms and senses of place, and the undermining of established constructions of place, as when a major company, or indeed a whole industry, dis-invests from a locality. Third, the globalised commodity production involves the exploitation of both material and symbolic natures, practices which some claim are unsustainable into the future.

Contested Geographies The preceding section has sought to provide brief illustration of the contested nature of the contemporary worlds in which people live. More sustained discussion of some of these issues, and many more besides, is contained in the chapters that follow. However, before outlining some of the content of these chapters and the structure of



the book as a whole, it is important to highlight one other aspect of contestation and its relationship to geography, namely that the notion of geography is itself contested. While for Massey et al. (1999), human geography’s ‘take on the world’ stands in the ground staked out by peoples’ relations with space, place and nature, one might add that this ground has been far from stable with various geographers at various times seeking to very much tilt geography towards particular elements of the triad, even to detach one or two of its elements from providing any support for notions of geogra­ phy, or else adding other elements onto the construction of geography. Livingstone (1992) has indeed characterised geography as a ‘contested enterprise’ with different people taking geography to mean differ things and/or seeking to do geography in different ways. Massey et al. (1999: 17) may be seen to also acknowledge this when they write that ‘the construction, maintenance and relative power of particular geographical imaginations is a terrain of contestation’, although they also note that academic geographers are not the only group of people who make geographies and direct much of their discussion of the contested construction of geography to these other groups. However, it is important to recognise that when studying academic geographies one is also very much entering a terrain of contestation. There are different ways of reacting to this contestation. As mentioned earlier, many geographers have effectively shied away from areas of conflict, seeking instead to find some uncontestable horizons for geography. Another widely adopted approach has been to seek closure of contestation by asserting the primacy of partic­ ular concepts of geography and geographical practice over others. A key issue here is on what grounds might one say one view of geography is better than another. For much of modem geography notions of science, truth and utility (or usefulness) have provided important, and highly related, criteria for casting judgement on particular geographies and geographers. Today, however, many geographers have come to recognise that these concepts are themselves highly contested: there are, for example, a range of different definitions of science and truth, while what is useful to one person may well be detrimental to others. A third approach is to accept contestation as a chronic (that is a constantly recurring) and potentially critical (as in vital) feature of doing geography. If we live in worlds which are highly differentiated and which are full of all manner of conflicts and contestations, then we should probably expect our geographies to exhibit similar characteristics. In editing this book I have very much adopted this third perspective. Authors were approached who were known both to be studying a range of different geographies and for taking rather different perspectives or approaches to ‘doing geography’. Furthermore, although some of the commonalities between the variously authored chapters has been pulled out, there was no attempt to make the contributors tow a common line, or indeed cover a fixed agenda. The authors were simply asked to make their own geographies, addressing issues which were of concern to them and which are widely present within the syllabi of undergraduate geography degrees. They were also asked to highlight concepts which were of particular significance to understand­ ing these issues (these appear in italics in the text - a practice which has already been adopted within this chapter), where necessary providing some commentary and illus­ tration of these concepts through box sections. Many of these ‘key concepts’ have indeed been the focus contestation, with a range of quite different interpretations being advanced about the meaning or implications of particular ideas.


Contested Worlds

Contested Worlds: An Introductory Summary So what contested worlds, geographies and concepts does the book cover? The book is divided into three broad parts. The first part includes this short introduction and a much longer chapter which explores in more detail contestations over the subject of geography. In particular, Chapter 2 considers in some of the philosophical debates which have come to surround human geography in recent years and outlines some of the different ways of ‘doing geography’ that have been proposed. An understanding of philosophical concepts and debates is now of considerable importance within human geography generally and Chapter 2 has been written as a general introduction to these concepts and debates. It is, however, also hoped that the chapter will act as a useful introduction to some of the concepts and approaches adopted by the various authors of the other chapters in the book. The second part of the book explores issues that are widely seen to be of interna­ tional, indeed global, reach and significance. In Chapter 3, Ed Brown reflects on the theoretical turmoil and conflicts surrounding the study of the development of the Third World, terms themselves that have been highly contested. The chapter highlights how the philosophical debates and arguments addressed in the preceding chapter have been worked out within, and have indeed themselves in part been constituted out of, more specific debates relating to the development, or lack of development, of many countries of the world. The chapter also highlights how notions of development straddle, at times quite uneasily, academic and policy-making arenas. Chapter 4 by Hazel Barrett and Angela Browne also addresses the idea of develop­ ment, and likewise recognises both the variety of contested interpretations of its nature, causes and consequences of development, and also how policy debates within institutions like the United Nations and the World Bank variously parallel, draw-on, and contradict, academic debates within geography and associated disciplines. The focus of this chapter is, however, much more particular in that it focuses on the specific role of population/environment relationships within development. The chapter notes the considerable emphasis currently given to increasing population numbers, particularly within parts of the so-called ‘Third World’, but demonstrates that the issue of population and environment relationships cannot be simply reduced to a question of numbers. The chapter draws on a series of case studies located in subSaharan Africa to illustrate some of the alternative ways in which population and environment relationships have been considered, beginning with the ideas of Thomas Malthus first articulated at the end of the eighteenth century. Whilst the issue of population-environment relations has long been an issue of debate, in Chapter 5 Peter Vujakovic considers an issue which has risen to prominence in the late twentieth century, namely the break up of a global geopolitical order which has been seen to have dominated relationships between states since the middle of that century. The chapter highlights geographical aspects of state power, some of which have been briefly touched on in this chapter. So, for example, the chapter discusses the significance of territoriality within the formation of states, and how territoriality has often been closely connected to military power and conflict. The chapter also highlights how that most geographical of texts, the map, was of significance within the perform­ ance of territoriality and state power; and how associations of people and place are of significance to state power through nationalism. The chapter also addresses inter-state



relations and how these may be implicated in the formation of some new global geopo­ litical order. The chapter also follows up, and in a sense constitutes something of a contradiction to, the view expressed earlier relating to geographers’ neglect of armed conflict. So, throughout the chapter attention is drawn to the use of military forces to secure and/or thwart particular geopolitical objectives. While the second part of book looked at issues of general, global concern, in the third part attention switches to issues of more particular, one might say ‘regional’ concern. The term region is open to a range of interpretations and has long been the subject of considerable contestation amongst geographers. Within this complexity and contestation a common view is that regions point simultaneously to both ‘the partitional (the world can be exhaustively divided into bounded spaces) and [the] aggregative (... spaces can be fitted together to form a larger totality)’ (Johnston et al. 2000: 687). To these common notions of the regional, there has also been increasing recognition of three further aspects of regions. First, the regional is a ‘process of becoming’: there are processes of partition and aggregation which foster the forma­ tion of regions but they rarely if ever come to full-fruition in clearly recognised regions. Second, the processes of regionalisation often do not lie in the region, but rather regions are constituted from the ‘outside in’ and/or from the ‘inside out’. A third new ingredient in the study of regional geographies has been a recognition that people partition and aggregate space - and associated geographical entities such as places and natures - into regions in their imaginings as well as through their actions. Furthermore these imaginings can have significant material consequences, leading people into actions to foster or contest processes of regionalisation in general, or particular constructions of regions. The four chapters in the third part of the book provide clear illustrations of both the common concern with regions as partitions and aggregations and the three further ingredients listed above. So, for example, in Chapter 6 Keith Hoggart explores whether the European Union, an aggregation of nation-states and national economies, is partitioned by social inequalities. The chapter also discusses regionali­ sation from the ‘outside in’ as it considers the role of globalisation in partitioning Europe into a mosaic of smaller worlds exhibiting considerable levels of inequality between, and often within, them. The chapter also draws attention to the role of national cultures and institutions in responding to globalisation, and also in fostering sub-national regional inequalities. The chapter thereby provides illustrations of the significance of culture in procedures that simultaneously partition and aggregate political-economic space. It also directs attention to issues of who does the aggrega­ tion and division, and in whose interests are they acting. There is clearly a politics to regionalisations which needs to be recognised, and indeed possibly contested. Chapter 7 by Mark Cleary also addresses the partitioning of regional space, although the focus of attention is now South-East Asia, and more particularly the countries in the regional ASEAN grouping. Once again attention is paid to the differentiations within the region, and to how these variously reflect ‘outside in’ processes relating to globalisation and the legacies of European colonialism, and also ‘inside out’ processes. The principal focus of attention with regard to the latter relates to processes of national ‘development’, and the chapter thereby connects to many of the issues discussed in Chapter 3. The countries of South-East Asia have often been described as a success story in development, moving from positions in


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the mid-twentieth century of colonial dependency and economic/political un- or under-development, to some developed-world status and riding high in various waves of the contemporary global economy. In Chapter 3 many critical questions were raised about the discourses of development, and likewise Chapter 8 raises questions about the costs and inclusiveness of the development stories commonly constructed about the so-called ‘tiger-economies’. Such questions include ones relating to: i) the treatment of the material environment and whether this provides a basis for a sustain­ able future for this region, or indeed more globally; ii) the degree of inequality between people living in different parts of the region, and indeed between people living in proximate locations to each other; and iii) the treatment of people who have different ways of life and the rights particular peoples may have over particular spaces and associated entities of natures. The final chapter of Part 3 addresses a region that is very much ‘in a process becoming’ in that it addresses Eastern and Central Europe, areas which through much of the twentieth century formed a central element of the USSR, or Union o f Soviet Socialist Republics, and an associated ‘Communist bloc’. In this chapter Craig Young discusses how the countries of this region have been impacted by the dissolution of Communist nation-states, identifying a series of economic, social, political and cultural transformations. He argues that the changes occurring in the region should not be seen as a simple transition from a communist, or state-socialist system, to a western, capitalist economy. Instead, he argues that there are a series of complex, geographically uneven and highly contested transformations occurring in this region, based in part on the legacy of spatial differentiation created in previous regimes and also through competing visions as to the desirable futures and strategies of development. It is concluded, for instance, that it is far from clear exactly where the developmental stories and strategies of ‘democratisation’, ‘markedsation’ and ‘regional autonomy’/ ‘decolonisation’ will eventually lead these counties, although it is highly likely that their outcomes will be both spatially and socially variable. In other words, whilst some places and some people may well value and gain advan­ tage from these changes, other places and people may resist and become disadvan­ taged by them. The issue of spatial and social differentiation forms the focus of Part 4 of the book, which explores the theme of local worlds and the inter-relation of people and places. In particular, this part of the book explores notions of social and spatial centrality and marginality. In Chapter 9, Phil Hubbard explores the concept of marginal places (see Shields, 1991 for a fuller discussion of this idea) and highlights the significance of spatial representation in the formation of social stereotypes and associated practices of discrimination and exclusion. He argues that some places get stigmatised as being home to various marginal groups, or ‘outsiders’, and once these areas get this reputa­ tion, then people living in these areas, who may well be quite different from the stereotypical image, become subject to heightened marginalisation as people and resources from the social centre shun these places. Whilst Chapter 9 seeks to highlight how place, and specifically place images, can materially affect people, in Chapter 10 I focus on how people affect, and indeed create and recreate places, seen as both material and symbolic products. In this chapter attention also turns from places of the margin to places of the centre, with attention focusing on who is involved in creating change in these places. The specific



changes discussed are those associated with gentrification, a term which is broadly used to refer to physical and social restructuring of an area. The chapter, however, highlights the contested nature of this term and how the gentrification has been vari­ ously defined and interpreted by people with different philosophical outlooks. The chapter argues that while gentrification has often been understood as a restructuring of places of the centre by the agency of people and institutions of the centre, it may also involve people of the margins, either as important but rather neglected agents of gentrification itself, or as people being socially and spatially marginalised by the processes of gentrification, which can materially and symbolically ‘displace’ people from certain areas of space. Chapter 11 also focuses on peoples’ relationships with symbolic and material places and spaces. Here the focus is on the spaces of the nation and rurality: of country and countryside. In this chapter, David Cook and I explore the way that the nation of New Zealand has often been seen as a marginal space, quite literally at the other side of the world from a centre of colonial power, Britain, and also how rural spaces have often been seen as marginal. Urban places are often seen as central places by dint of the range of activities which take place there, and as a consequence rural areas may be seen as being marginal, and indeed as becoming increasingly marginal, through the low density of activities which are seen to go on there. However, the chapter goes on to question these constructions of country and countryside, highlight­ ing amongst other things how: i) areas of the countryside may be important places of production for many of the resources which sustain places of the centre; ii) centres and margins, even when considered with a spatial rather than social emphasis, are relational terms (being distant or far-away is always a measure from somewhere); iii) socio-spatial relationships of centre and periphery are multiple in character and rarely add up to create a stable position of centre or margin; and iv) being positioned at the margin does not necessarily entail constraint and domination, but may constitute worlds in which there are potentialities for creativity and empowerment.

Contesting Contested Worlds It is on this last, seemingly positive note, that I will end this introduction to Contested Worlds. Hopefully you will feel inclined to read the various chapters in this book and consider the issues touched upon in this introduction, and indeed many other issues raised by these chapters which have been sidelined within the writing of this intro­ duction. When reading these chapters you may wish to bring other issues to the fore, to contest the interpretations made of these chapter in this introduction, and indeed to contest some of the claims made in these chapters. Indeed I hope that this will indeed be the case. Human geography today is being made in all manner of quite different ways, some of which are very evident in this book and others of which are not. This book is very much written as an introduction to some of the various worlds of contemporary human geography and the contestations which lie within and betwixt them. There are now all manner of human geographies, which perhaps inevitably leads to geography being a highly contested enterprise. However rather than seek some uncontested horizon 1 would argue that contestation needs to be recognised as a key strand in the making of new, stimulating and empowering human geographies.

Chapter 2

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography M artin Phillips

Philosophy in Human Geography: An Introduction The preceding chapter highlighted the contested character of human geography, both in the worlds beyond the ‘academy’ and within the texts, conversations and practices of academic geography. The bulk of chapters focus on attempts to understand the worlds of geography beyond the academy, although attention will frequently be made to the worlds, words and ideas of academic geographers. This chapter, however, will focus exclusively on the words and ideas of human geographers in that it will seek to outline some of the philosophical issues and debates conducted within recent and contemporary Anglo-American human geography. The chapter will seek to provide some insights as to why philosophy might matter, both to the conduct of human geog­ raphy and more widely. To assist in doing this, the chapter makes use of a distinction between epistemology and ontology to differentiate and discuss a range of philoso­ phies which have been of significance within human geography - or at least AngloAmerican human geography - since the mid-twentieth century. Ontologies refer to ‘theories of what exists’ and epistemologies to ‘theories of how we can know what exists’. Philosophies may be seen to reflect particular sets of ontologies and episte­ mologies, although the emphasis placed on and degree of interconnection between epistemology and ontology can vary considerably between philosophies, as should become evident through the course of the chapter.

From Empiricism to Positivism Unwin (1992) suggests that a widely held image of geography, often derived from people’s school education, is that it revolves around the collation and recitation of a series of ‘facts’ about places. Unwin adds that such public understandings are very poor reflections of contemporary geography in Higher Education, although one might argue that they do reflect the character of this geography in past times, and indeed at least some of its current manifestations. It is also a sense of geography which can be described as empiricist. Empiricism is a term used to describe the view that knowledge is constructed exclusively through sensual experiences of the world, particularly though visual observation. The term is often associated with British philosophers of the sixteenth


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and seventeenth centuries, such as John Locke and David Hulme (see Dunn et al. 1992; Peet 1998), although it is now generally applied to any works which imply that validity in knowledge construction stems exclusively from sensed experience. As such it connects to the common place understanding that geographical research involves the collection and representations of observations, while learning geography becomes the memorisation and recitation of these facts. Such a conception of geography figured strongly in academic geography in Britain and the USA from the 1930s. In Britain, for example, the geography of this time has been characterised as ‘capes and bays’ geography, concerned with surveying and describing, often in quite a systematic manner, the physical and human aspects of various landscape features. A classical study was Steers’ (1946) The Coastline o f Britain which literally went around the coast describing the physical and human features found there. Other studies moved away from the coast, but still sought to write geography as observational descriptions of phenomena found in an area. Stamp (1946), for example, used some 22,000 school children as field assistants to map the land-use in grid-squares across the British Isles, while more generally use was often made of a regional frame to bound descriptions of human and natural landscape forms. There were a series of discussions about how to define regions (e.g. Kimble, 1951; Hall 1935; James 1952; Whittlesey 1954) which drew in a range of work from France, Germany and the USA, although often these debates were rather left behind within studies which simply took as read that regions existed. Livingstone (1992: 311), for example, suggests that the regional geography of this time often ‘degener­ ated into a plodding, enumerative exercise lacking both intellectual vigour and moral zest’, while Philo (1991: 4) claims that the mid-twentieth century saw a ‘restricted vision of geography’ being established which was ‘frightened about permitting geog­ raphy to consider phenomena which are immaterial (which are not tangible, not easily countable and mappable) and which may have worrying “political overtones’” (see also Phillips 1998b; Philo 1994a). Many regional geographers saw themselves as being non-philosophical and indeed often assigned pleasure in doing geography to its non-philosophical character. However, even those who were constructing geography as a non-philosophical disci­ pline were making philosophical claims and assumptions. They were, for example, effectively claiming that knowledge can be created entirely or primarily through the operation of the senses. Often this claim was made implicitly: people just constructed their geographies through collecting together a series of observations. In other cases the argument was advanced more explicitly. So, for example, Carl Sauer, a leading figure in US geography from the 1920s claimed that, geography is first of all knowledge gained by observation ... one orders by reflection and reinspection the things one has been looking at, and that from what one has experienced by intimate sight comes comparison and synthesis (Sauer 1956: 296-7).

This empiricist view of knowledge, although widely held in the Western world (MacNaghten and Urry 1998), is problematic in, at least, two respects. First, what people sense appears to be, in part, preconditioned by peoples’ thoughts: people see, hear, smell, taste and feel what they expect to see, hear, smell, taste or feel. As a result

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


two people may sense the same situation quite differently if those two people have quite different expectations. Second, an empiricist perspective implies that knowl­ edge cannot be created with regard to things that cannot be sensed. Yet many things about which people claim knowledge are not directly accessible to the senses. These things range from the microscopic to the macro-scale, and also include things such as ideas, emotions and experiences which are commonly supposed to influence how people act but which cannot be physically sensed, although you may sense some tell­ tale signs which you interpret as being indicative of a particular thought, emotion or experience. Similarly, many of the forces widely seen as significant in the operating in the physical world are not directly observable: Newton may have observed the apple falling but he did not directly observe the force of gravity pulling on the apple. Empiricist studies hence employed a particular epistemology, or theory of knowl­ edge, and one which when articulated fully has been widely seen as problematic. Many of these studies also adopted what Sayer (1992) described as an atomistic ontology. That is, they see the world as being composed of a jumble of discrete objects which come together for reasons which are created internally to each object but which may have impacts which affect other objects. In many a regional geogra­ phy the region is conceived in terms of a set of discrete objects, such as firms, house­ holds and people, each of which make their own decisions about such things as where to locate, and when and what to move. Such decisions may mean that some of these elements of the region come into collision: firms may all decide to locate in one area, or people all decide to move from the countryside to the city or vice-versa, and when this happens new conditions are created which in term may set the elements of the regions moving in new directions. As will be discussed later, such ontology can be criticised for failing to recognise the extent to which seemingly distinct entities may be quite fragmented and/or may operate in connections with other, perhaps quite different and/or distant entities. Despite being highly problematic, empiricism dominated much of AngloAmerican geography from the early twentieth century at least until the 1950s. At this time, however, another set of philosophical ideas came to exert an influence on much of geography, although at the time their influence was dimly recognised. These ideas were those of positivism or, rather more precisely ‘logical positivism’, which argued, simplifying greatly, for the mathematical formulation of theories which were accept­ able as true knowledge only after they had been tested in relation to predicted empir­ ical observations. However to understand what logical positivism meant in geography and why it emerged, it is useful to consider it in relation to the distinction already made between epistemology and ontology. Logical Positivist Ontologies in Geography The first text to make an explicit link between geography and logical positivism was David Harvey’s (1969) Explanation in Geography, although several commentators on the history of geography (e.g. Gregory 1978; Unwin 1992) have argued that many of the connections were made much earlier in an article by Fred Schaefer (1953) enti­ tled ‘Exceptionalism in geography’. Schaefer was friends with Gustav Bergmann who in the 1920s had been part of a philosophical discussion group known as the Vienna Circle which had initially outlined notions of logical positivism, and who


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subsequently wrote extensively about it (Bergmann 1954, 1957). Such associations suggest that Schaefer was well versed in the ideas of logical positivism even though he did not actually use these terms in his article. It is certainly clear that many of the arguments Shaefer made were fully compatible with those made by explicit logical positivists such as Bergmann. Indeed, Bergmann edited the paper just prior to publi­ cation, following the sudden death of Schaefer due to a heart attack, and Luckerman (1989: 55) has suggested that this skewed the paper away from geographical debates and even more towards the concerns of Bergmann and ‘the logical empiricist school of positivist philosophy in the USA’. One of the initial starting points of Schaefer’s paper was that geography was too static: it lacked change and progress. He complained, for example that geography was: ‘too complacent. Some fundamental ideas have remained unchallenged for decades though there is ample reason to doubt their power’ (Schaefer 1953: 226); and that, ‘the progress of geography was slower than that of some other social sciences such as, for instance, economics’ (p. 227). He suggested that this situation was the by­ product of what he called exceptionalism - ‘a whole group of ideas which are varia­ tions of a common theme: geography is quite different from all other sciences, methodologically unique, as it were’ (p. 231). Schaefer argued that such ideas fostered the notion that geography was ‘the “integrating science”, completely differ­ ent from other disciplines ... [with] unique importance’, but that the actual results of geographical research where ‘somewhat lacking in those startling insights which one is led to expect from such exuberant characterizations of the field’ (p. 227). The reason for this, Schaefer claimed, was that much of geography failed to progress beyond description to explanation, a movement which according to Schaefer ‘means always to recognize ... [phenomena] as instances of laws’. According to Schaefer geography ‘had to be conceived as the science concerned with the formulation of the laws governing the spatial distribution of certain features on the surface of the earth’ (p. 227). This strident claim as to what geographers ought to do serves to highlight one of the features of logical positivism, namely its adoption of a law-based ontology. Phenomena and events were seen to be, in large part, the outcome of universal processes, that is processes which operated in a manner which was uniform across, and therefore in a sense independent from, time and space. Such a view of explanation stands in some contrast to the regional, empiricist focused geography discussed earlier, and much of Schaefer’s article took the form of a critique of such geography, through criticism of what he saw as some of its princi­ pal advocates, namely Kant, Hettner and most particularly Hartshome. Hartshome (1939a; 1939b) had written a major text entitled The Nature o f Geography which Schaefer read as a justification of an idiographic regional geography. The term idiographic had been used by the German philosopher Windelband at the close of the nineteenth century (Windelband 1980) and was picked up by Hettner (1905) and then Hartshome. The term was used by Windelband to characterise approaches that focused on specific events and phenomena and sought to explain them in relation to a particular, probably unique, combination of circumstances and processes. This was contrasted with a nomothetic approach which sought to explain events and phenom­ ena in relation to general processes.

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


Schaefer read Hartshome as an advocate of the study of the unique, remarking for example that ‘Geography according to Hartshome is essentially idiographic’ and that he took the view that, ‘Whenever laws are discovered or applied one is no longer in the area of geography’ (Schaefer 1953: 240). Hartshome took great exception to Schaefer’s characterisations of his, and indeed other peoples’ work, claiming that ‘almost every paragraph, almost the great majority of sentences in the critique, repre­ sent falsification, whether by commission or omission’ (Hartshome 1955: 243). A series of latter commentators (e.g. Entrikin 1981; 1989; Gregory 1978; 1982b; Guelke 1977; 1978; Luckerman 1989) have all argued that the differences between Schaefer and Hartshome have often been overplayed, and that Hartshome did not, as Schaefer implied, see geography an exclusively idiographic enterprise. Indeed he argued explicitly against such a view: A geography which was content with studying only the individual characteristics of its phenomena and their relationships and did not utilize every opportunity to develop generic concepts and universal principles would be failing in one of the main standards of science (Hartshome 1939a: 383).

However, as Agnew (1989: 122) remarks, what set Hartshome apart from Schaefer and the logical positivist philosophy was that he did not see the generation of univer­ sal principles as the end-point and purpose of analysis (Hartshome 1939a: 387). Rather they were ‘merely a scientific tool’ (Hartshome 1939a: 387) to be used, where necessary, in a scientific ‘seeking to know’ (Hartshome 1959: 168). For Schaefer (1953: 248), however, science simply ‘searches for laws’. Despite the criticisms of Schaefer’s arguments by Hartshome, it was the former’s notion of science as a search for laws which came to dominate much of geography from the 1950s and 1960s. Two broad types of laws came to be developed in geogra­ phy. First, there were attempts to derive ‘spatial laws’. Geography came to be seen by many as being a ‘spatial science’ concerned with establishing universal laws about space, or more precisely the spatial arrangement of things in space. This view was clearly expressed in Schaefer’s article where it was claimed that: Spatial relations are the ones that matter in geography, and no others. Non-spatial relations found among phenomena in an area are the subject matter of other specialists such as the geologist, anthropologist or economist (Schaefer 1953: 228).

As Gregory (1982b: 190) notes, Schaefer’s proposal for a geography focused on spatial relations was itself ‘in an important sense ... exceptionalist’ in that it sought to ‘out­ law’ various geographies as being non-geographical and/or non-scientific. As mentioned earlier, a number of studies have argued that in the mid-twentieth century a ‘restrictive vision of geography’ was established which shied away from getting geog­ raphy entwined with the intangible and the political. This vision was often enacted in definitions of what geography was and in discussions of the relationship and bound­ aries between human geography and other disciplines. These points were very much in evidence during Schaefer’s espousal of geography as spatial science where he both sought to establish clear boundaries between geography and other social sciences in terms of their objects of study, and also bemoaned geographers for falling to keep within these restrictions. So, for example, he claimed that geographers:


Contested Worlds do not always clearly distinguish between, say, social relations on the one hand and spatial relations among social factors of the other. Actually one may safely say that most of what we find in any given area is of primary interest to the other social scientist. For instance, the connections between ideology and political behaviour, or the lawful connec­ tions between the psychological traits of a population and its economic institutions do not concern the geographer ... Like all others the geographer had better cultivate his [sic] speciality, the laws concerning spatial arrangement ... the geographer’s specific task in the analysis of regions is limited to spatial relations only. Accordingly, even the most complete geographical analysis of any region gives only partial insight into it (Schaefer 1953:231).

In other words, Schaefer argues geographers needed to restrict themselves to the study of spatial laws even though such study would lead, at best, only partial explana­ tion of particular situations and places. Schaefer’s proposal for a geography focused on spatial laws was explicitly resisted by people such as Hartshome and appears to have been largely ignored by many other contemporaneous geographers (see Johnston, 1997: 60; Livingstone, 1992: 316-322). Despite this, as Unwin (1992: 115) notes, ‘[paradoxically ... the ideas expressed in his 1953 paper ... came to dominate the practice of geography in the 1950s and 1960s’. In particular, geography did become for many a ‘spatial science’, engaged in formulation of some form of spatial laws. One of the earliest examples of work on spatial laws was the social physics school which sought to explain human behaviour using mathematical formulations of spatial laws. Stewart and Wartnz, two leading figures in this approach, argued that geography has become ‘thwarted’ (Stewart and Wartnz 1958: 167) from becoming a ‘well organised science’ because of an over-emphasis on uniqueness. Geography, they argued, should be ‘macroscopic’ rather than ‘microscopic’ in focus, focusing on ‘space-occupying systems’ (p. 168) and searching wherever possible to discern the general over the particular. Much of the work of people associated with the spatial science school sought to formulate laws relating to the influence of distance on social interaction, and there was consid­ erable use of mathematics, both to ‘quantify data’ and to express theory. Frequent connections were also made to physics, with Stewart exclaiming: There is no longer any excuse for anyone to ignore the fact that human beings, on average and at least in certain circumstances, obey mathematical rules resembling in a general way some of the primitive ‘laws’ of physics (Stewart 1947: 485).

Stewart was an astronomical physicist by training and he, along with Wamtz, made frequent connections between social and physical forms and processes. Stewart and Wamtz (1958; 1959), for example, argued that people and/or social organisations interact with each other in a way which is analogous to the way inanimate physical objects relate to each other through the forces of gravity. In other words, just as the gravitation force between two objects was conceptualised as directly propor­ tional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the distance between them - then so the level of communication, or population movement or some other form of human interaction between two places, was seen as being proportion to the population of these places and inversely proportional to the distance between them.

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Similar ideas about the need to develop spatial laws emerged from a variety of other places, including the universities of Washington (in Seattle), Iowa, Wisconsin, Lund (in Sweden) and Cambridge and Bristol (see Johnston 1997; Unwin 1992). Despite significance differences in some of their arguments, these geographers were all broadly convinced that geography needed to become a ‘spatial science’ concerned ‘to specify the fundamental laws o f spatial organisation present in both natural land­ scapes and human activities’ (Cloke et al. 1991: 66). While many geographers in the 1950s and 1960s worked within the restrictions placed on geography by Schaefer, many more geographers can be seen to have trans­ gressed his strictures and turned instead to what according to his arguments would appear to be ‘non-geographical laws’. This possibility was indeed recognised by Schaefer (1953: 248) who argued that ‘most of the laws of physical geography ... are not strictly geographical laws’ but rather ‘specializations of laws independently established in the physical sciences geographers’. Schaefer suggested that geogra­ phers might ‘take as we find them’ laws from a variety of natural and social sciences, ‘apply them systematically to the various conditions that prevail on the surface of the earth and analyse them with particular attention to the spatial variables they contain’ (p. 248). This prediction proved a good one, with geography becoming a ‘magpie disci­ pline’ (Unwin 1992: 137) borrowing universal laws from a range of other disciplines. Schaefer highlighted the use by physical geographers of laws established in other physical sciences and indeed this has been very evident. Unwin (1992) highlights how geomorphology in the 1950s was heavily impacted by the incorporation of ideas from geology, physics and engineering, while human geographers drew most notably, albeit selectively (see Gregory and Urry 1985), on principles developed by econo­ mists, sociologists and, somewhat latter, cognitive-psychologists. There was also some borrowing by human geographers of ideas from the physical and natural sciences. The incorporation of Newtonian physics through the development of gravity models has already been mentioned, while another important source of ideas, albeit rather indirectly, was biology. Urban geography in particular was heavily influ­ enced by ecological concepts introduced, arguably rather unknowingly, through the incorporation into geography of work by the so-called Chicago School of sociologists (see Chapters 9 and 10). Many human geographers came to see spatial patterns of activity as representing an outcome not of some universal ‘spatial laws’, such as the impact of a ‘friction of distance’, but rather to see spatial patterns as manifestations of ‘economic’ or ‘behavioural laws’. Geographers saw themselves as ‘law users’ rather than ‘law creators’ (Guelke 1977): taking laws ‘discovered’ by biology, physics, economics, sociology, or psychology and testing them against spatial patterns of behaviour. The late 1960s and 1970s saw human geographers searching out a whole variety of ‘economic’ theories with some spatial element to them, or else if there was none, ‘spatialising them’ by proposing a series of expected spatial outcomes and then testing this spatialised theory against spatial patterns. Examples include Taafe et al.9s (1963) spatialising of Rostow’s (1960) stage theory of modernisation, and various Von Thiinenian, Christallerian and Loschian spatialisations of land rent theory (see Haggett 1965). While many human geographers participated in such activities, Cloke et al. record that during the late 1960s and through the 1970s:

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even within the ranks of the spatial scientists a measure of unease quickly began to emerge about the ability of their cherished ‘laws’ and ‘models’ ... to account adequately for observed patterns of location and movement within society (Cloke et al. 1991: 66-7).

To put it bluntly, the theories being tested did not stand up to their spatialised testing. While the Taffe and Gould model, for instance, might appear to explain the transport system of West Africa, it did not appear to fit convincingly in any other places. Similarly, while the spatialised rent theories might account for pattern of agriculture in south Germany or the distribution of housing in a few western cities, neither appeared be particularly good when tested against the situation in underdeveloped countries or indeed in many parts of the so-called ‘developed world’. Some geogra­ phers began to question assumptions which underlay the theories they were using and to recognise that many of the assumptions they were making to construct their theo­ ries were untenable. Elements of this critique will be discussed later, but before then it is important to consider the epistemological aspects of logical positivist philosophy and spatial science. Logical Positivist Epistemology in Geography Geography as spatial science was not simply about looking for universal processes or laws but it also involved new ways of constructing and evaluating knowledge. That is it involved transformations in the predominant epistemology of geography, which has earlier been identified as empiricist. Logical positivism, and indeed an earlier form of positivism associated with the work of Auguste Comte (see Box 2.1), shared with empiricism a concern with observation as a way of establishing the truth of something, although particular emphasis was placed on the replicability and precision of observations. Secure, truthful, certain knowledge was seen to be the product of ‘testing’ through repeated observations unambiguously expressed through precise, quantified terminology. Closely associated with replicability and precision were calls for the adoption of a so-called ‘scientific methodology’, with the emphasis within logical positivism being very much placed on singularity of approach. Physics, for example, was often held up as the exemplar of a logical posi­ tivist science and its methodologies were seen to be of universal applicability over the physical and social sciences, and indeed into the arts and humanities. Linked to this, and also to the emergence of computer technologies able to mathematically process ever greater amounts of information, the production of geographical infor­ mation became increasingly focused on ‘quantification’ - that is expressing things in terms of numerical values and formulae - and Unwin (1992: 135) comments that the application of such methodologies often became ‘an end in itself’, a claim that is lent support by the subsequent admission of one well known quantifier that he ‘overwhelmed’ himself with data, acquiring virtually any which looked analysable, which was then often ‘m anipulated ... almost ad infinitum ’ (Johnston 1984: 41-44).

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography

Box 2.1: Comtean positivism Almost 100 years prior to the Vienna School’s elaboration of the notion of logical positivism, the Frenchman Auguste Comte sketched out another posi­ tivist philosophy. Indeed Comte coined the term ‘positivism’ to characterise a system of thought, or ‘new world religion’ as he called it, which he proposed would, as Unwin (1992: 31) puts it, ‘provide general rules for the benefit and improvement of society’. Comte was highly concerned about the social situa­ tion in France in the early nineteenth century and was keen to stress both what he saw as positive features and to criticise what he saw as disorderly, irrational change. As Livingstone (1992) notes, although Comte has often been associ­ ated with the Enlightenment movement which stressed social change through the application of rational thought (see later in the text), he himself charac­ terised his work ‘retrograde’ or as we might put it now, conservative. Comte’s positive social features included tradition, familial associations and social inequality, which he set up against individualism which he described as the ‘disease of the Western World’ (quoted in Livingstone 1992: 320). What Comte did share with advocates of Enlightenment was a ‘progressivist’ mentality and a faith in the powers of human reason and science. Comte proposed that rules for the improvement of society would be created out of knowledge created through science which followed certain principle. He outlined five basic principles which he saw as necessary for the creation of positive knowledge and thereby social improvement and order. These ‘positive principles’ were each contrasted with other, for Comte, less beneficial ways of acting and thinking. The five dualism he set up are listed below, in both French and in an English translation: -

Le reel versus le chimerique (the real/actual versus the imaginary) La certitude versus l’indescision (the certain versus the undecided) Le precis versus le vague (the precise/exact versus the vague) L’utile versus l’oiseaux (the useful versus the vain) Le relative versus 1’absolute (the relative versus the absolute)

Comte’s notion of le reel was very much a continuation of empiricist philoso­ phy. Comte argued that the ‘actual’ or the real was only that which could be sensed. Anything that could not be directly sensed was viewed by Comte as being ‘imaginary’ or i e chimerique’, or as he also often called it, ‘metaphysi­ cal’. Indeed Comte proposed that there were three distinct types of knowledge or ways of thinking: i) the ‘theological’ where events in the world were seen to be governed supernatural entities; ii) the ‘metaphysical’ where events where seen to be governed by some abstract force - such as the human spirit or the force of nature; and iii) the ‘scientific’ or ‘positive’ where events were explained in terms of ‘the regular connection between empirically observable phenomena’. Academic disciplines, and indeed whole societies, could accord­ ing to Comte be characterised as being within particular ways of thinking and could ‘progress’ by moving from the theological to the metaphysical, and from



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the metaphysical to the scientific. Hence scientific knowledge was given privi­ lege - indeed one could really only describe the results of science as ‘knowl­ edge’ - and the other forms of thought were downgraded to superstitions or ‘metaphysical speculation’. Given that for Comte science was seen to progress through the formation knowledge based on observation, anything that could be empirically observed could be subject to scientific inquiry. Comte in particular was keen to extend the notion of science from the physical sciences into the social. Anything not amenable to observation came to lie beyond the remit of scientific study and, given Comte’s privileging of science over other forms of knowledge, became effectively relegated to a position of unimportance. The unobservable hence was given the dual identity of ‘unfathomable mystery’ and ‘ultimate irrele­ vance’. As Gregory (1978: 26) comments, while ‘Comte did not believe that all questions could be answered in positivistic term ... he did claim that “if they could not be so answered then they could not be answered at all - so that there was no point in asking them’” . A second principle of Comte’s philosophy was closely linked to the rejec­ tion of metaphysical speculation. This principle was that of ‘certainty’ or i a certitude’. Positivism was about providing clear, so-called ‘objective’, answers to questions rather than leaving issues open for people to answer for themselves in a multitude of ways. Positivist, scientific knowledge was knowledge about which there was agreement amongst those qualified to make judgements about an issue. This agreement was made possible, so Comte argued, where there was ‘commonality of experience’: where several independent observers see the same thing and draw the same conclusions, then there is more likelihood that this interpretation may be taken as valid. To assist in creating such certainty then scientists need to outline very clearly the conditions that were present when they made an observation such that someone might be able to replicate these conditions and hence should observe similar results. This notion of replicability is central to notions of ‘experimentation’ in physical science but for Comte was also possible outside the laboratory so long as scientists followed a very clear methodology which could be reproduced by others: hence as well as direct certainty produced through a ‘commonality of experience’ there was also ‘methodological certainty’. The third principle connects closely to the idea of methodological certainty. Comte did not merely ask for transparent methodologies in science, he also suggested that there were particular methodologies, or ways of creating knowl­ edge, which were better than others. In particular he argued that precision was needed in generating knowledge and that this was best obtained by constructing ‘theories’ which allowed ‘induction’ of law-like hypotheses. For Comte the purpose of science was not to the accumulation of observations per se but the connection of observations to theories which consisted of ‘laws’, or statements about things taken as ‘universally true, independent of time and space’ (Johnston et al.1994: 320).

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


While the first two principles were very much about ‘epistemology’, the third principle has clear connections to the principle of ontology. For Comte, societies, and indeed the physical environment, were very much ‘orderly constructions’ in that behind all their apparent diversity and chaos he foresaw universal attributes or processes. This ontology of universal processes was often assumed rather than explicitly justified and may well be seen to reflect Comte’s social conservatism. However the lack of justification can also be associated with positivism’s epistemological principles with allowed observa­ tion to be the only form of justification. Positivism as a philosophy had the rather ironic effect of ‘beheading’ or devaluing philosophy: there appeared to be little value in trying to explain why such laws existed because to do so would probably lead one into producing a series of statements which would be far from certain, precise and observable. Rather the value of the positivist position was seen to be signalled by the growth in the adoption of its principles: if people could produce law-like interpretations which were in accord with positivistic principles, then its assumptions might be seen as being proved correct. Hence Comte’s fourth principle, that the value of positivistic knowledge was demonstrated by its use. More particularly Comte argued that positive knowl­ edge would be revealed by its ‘instrumental effects’ - the impact it had to change things in line with its own predictions - and by its ‘rationality’, particu­ larly the way previously disconnected events could be connected to laws and these various laws in turn could become integrated together. Science for posi­ tivists is the accumulation and integration of theoretical laws which have been shown to accord with regular observations. The final principle of Comte’s positivism was Le relative which meant that all knowledge is provisional rather than final. Somebody might come along and challenge previously accepted knowledge, either on the grounds of some new observations which did not concur with those previously made, or by offering a new law that appeared more rational (that is connected with a wider range of accepted ideas) or could be connected with a greater range of regular occur­ rences.

Although logical positivism placed considerable emphasis of the construction of knowledge through the senses, the epistemology it advanced did break away in one critical respect to that associated with empiricism and Comtean positivism, ‘inas­ much as it accepted that some statements could be validated without recourse to experience’ (Gregory, 1978: 33). More specifically, logical positivists of the Vienna School set up a distinction between two types of knowledge. First, there was the knowledge created in accordance with the principles of empiricism and Comtean positivism: that is knowledge justified by reference to repeated observation. This knowledge consisted of synthetic statements which were taken to be true only after having been connected to empirical observation, and empirical observation under­ taken through the principles of ‘the scientific method’. Knowledge could, however, it was argued take another form, one not recognised by empiricists or Comtean posi­


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tivists. This second form of knowledge was made up of analytical or a priori state­ ments which were taken as being true even though they had not been, and indeed crucially could not be, formally tested against empirical observations. This is a significant epistemological shift in that it implies that at least some ideas might be taken as being true even though they have not been empirically justi­ fied. For some logical positivists such as Carnap (1935) the number and form of analytical statements was very limited, relating exclusively to the realms of logic and mathematical formulation. Elements of such a view can also be discerned within Harvey’s (1969) book Explanation in Geography, which referred to logical positivism as a philosophy focused on ‘the logic of sound explanation’ and argued that, following its lead, ‘we may rightly insists that an explanation should be logi­ cally sound, before we even consider its philosophical underpinnings’ (p. 6). One might add that this argument can be criticised for failing to recognise how ‘logic’ might itself be seen as a philosophical concept, although it can be seem to fully congruent with a logical positivist epistemology in which logic constitutes an axiomatic form of knowledge. Harvey (1969: 8) himself argued that the identification of logic as an apriori epis­ temological principle was a characteristic only of ‘logical positivism of an extreme kind’ and that ‘the whole procedure of explaining’ should be seen as ‘highly depend­ ent upon ... speculative objectives’. His book still focused on ‘sorting out ... those aspects of analysis that are a matter of logic and those aspects which are contingent upon philosophical presupposition’, with a clear focus on the former. However, geog­ raphers more generally began to incorporate a series of ‘speculative objectives’ into their analysis, most clearly through the formulation of ‘deductive theories'. These theories were by definition seen as ‘apriori constructs’, although not necessarily in the sense implied in the logical positivist notion of ‘analytical statements’. For many geographers deductive theories were what Chisholm (1975: 147), perhaps rather misleadingly in the present context, refers to as positive theories, which he defines as theories which seek to ‘account for some empirically observed regularity or set of associations’. Such theories can be constructed deductively or inductively, but in each case the theory is only accepted as knowledge once it has been connected to sense observations. In other words, theories are synthetic statements. However, Chisholm argues that deductive theories do not have to be simply used as ‘positive theories’, or theories of ‘what is’, but may also be normative theories, or theories of ‘what should be’. Chisholm argues that many of the theories incorporated into geography in the 1950s and 1960s were of this latter type, although often not recognised as such. So, for example, he argued that the central-place theories of Christaller and Losch were normative in character, seeking ‘not to show the world actually is, but how it should be’ (Chisholm 1975: 125); and further that any attempt to criticise these theories because of a failure to correspond with empirical observations was fundamentally mistaken. Rather these theories should be used to plan how to order the world - hence a planner might use them as a guide for how to act in order to ‘impose his [sic] views on the real world’ (Chisholm 1975: 146 emphasis added) - or ‘to provide a yardstick against which to judge the efficiency of the real world’ (pp. 146-7). Chisholm’s normative theories were is a sense akin to the analytical statements of logical positivism in that they were seem as being immune from empirical refutation. As argued elsewhere (Phillips 1998b: 124), logical positivist studies although often

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


conditioned by a focus on what could be empirically sensed did in some cases involve ‘utilizing a social imagination which was, at least in theory,... distanced from social experiences and interests’. For instance, Von Thunen’s classic work on agricultural land-use, The Isolated State, began by asking the reader to make a series of quite unrealistic assumptions, such as ‘a very large town at the centre of a fertile plain which is crossed by no navigable rivers. Throughout the plain the soil is ... of the same fertility’ (Hall 1966: 124). In a sense a logical positivism allowed an opening up of thought beyond simply that which could be connected with sensed observation. However, in other ways this approach produced highly circumscribed theories. In particular the notion of what should happen was often centred on universalising particular elements of the present and little radical transformation of the present into the future was ever envisaged within these theories. Furthermore these theories often neglected how present circumstances were themselves transformations from earlier states: they were ahistorical theories. These theories also neglected the complexity of the present and how some elements of the present may well have interests and conse­ quences which run counter to the aspects privileged by the theorist. The theories of Von Thiinen, for example, have been criticised by people such as Bambrock (1976) for being based on an idealisation of capitalism. Somewhat later, Philo (1992b: 201) also noted how the theories of spatial science ignored a whole range of social differ­ ences, thereby creating images of the world as being inhabited by ‘little armies of faceless, classless, sexless beings’, dutifully enacting certain capitalist principles such as minimizing costs and maximising personal profits or utility. In time many geographers have come to reject these omissions, and even at the time when geogra­ phy was becoming more of a quantitative and logical positivist spatial science, some geographers were beginning to question assumptions which underlay these construc­ tions of geography. It is to these lines of critique that attention will now switch, begin­ ning with a critique advanced by self-styled humanistic geographers, and then moving to so-called radical and structuralist critiques.

Humanistic Geography Whereas much of logical positivist geography sought to put space and science at the centre of human geography, humanistic geography can be said to put people at the centre. The term humanistic relates to a number of closely related concepts, such as ‘humanness’ or ‘humanity’ (what constitutes being human), the ‘humanities’ (fields of inquiry into the conditions of humans) and being ‘humane’ (caring for humans). These terms, and the general notions of humanism, emerged in the fourteenth and fifteenth century European Renaissance when people began to challenge existing modes of religious and secular thought on the basis of whether or not these ideas fitted in with people’s interests and capabilities. Rather than simply accepting things as the will of a sovereign king or God, people began to question the validity of partic­ ular ideas on the grounds of human reason and freedom. Human thought and actions were seen to be able to make a difference, to change things, and hold the potential for making the world a better place for people to live in. Put simply, humanism valued people, seeing them as a central agency in creating the world and considering their interests to be paramount over everything else.


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Humanistic geography can be seen as an attempt to connect geography to these human centred values: hence definitions of humanistic geography as ‘an approach to human geography distinguished by the central and active role it gives to human awareness and human agency, human consciousness and human creativity’ (Johnston et al. 1994: 263). Cloke et al. (1991: 58) similarly claim that ‘the bottom line for humanistic geography lies in the objective of bringing human beings in all their complexity to the centre-stage of human geography’. They add that this emphasis was pursued ‘in conscious opposition’ to what they see as ‘the curiously “peopleless” character of much that had previously passed off as human geography’ (Cloke et al. 1991: 58). As one of the authors subsequently argued, many ‘logical positivist’ studies in so-called ‘human geography’ appeared: either deserted of people - think of all those geometric representations of settlements ... that render them eerily still, silent and devoid of life - or are occupied by little armies of faceless, classless, sexless beings dutifully laying out Christaller’s central place networks, doing exactly the right number of hours farmwork in each of von Thiinen’s concentric rings, and basically obeying the great economic laws of minimising effort and cost in negotiating physical space (Philo 1992b: 200).

Cloke et al. (1991: 58) add that when one looks more closely at the notion of bringing people into human geography it actually has two major components. First, there is a need to recognise that geographers are human and therefore their human characteris­ tics, their humanity, will influence how they do geography. This feature applies as much to physical as to human geography: all geographical research is human geogra­ phy in the sense that it is done by people. The second issue, of specific relevance to human geography is the need to recognise the full range of characteristics that the people studied have. These components can be seen to relate respectively to the epis­ temology and ontology of humanistic geography. Arguments fo r a More Humanistic Ontology Humanistic geography suggested a rather different ontology from those employed by spatial science. Spatial science basically argued that people behaved in, or should behave in, regular, predictable ways. As Cloke et al. (1991: 69) comment, spatial science viewed people in a manner akin to some inanimate objects: it ‘“objectified”, “reified” or (in Olsson’s more memorable term) “thingified” the people under study’, portraying them as disembodied and dehumanised ‘entities’: whizzing about in space - travelling from place X to place Y; shopping at centre X rather than centre Y; selling produce at market X rather than in market Y - in a fashion little differ­ ent from the ‘behaviour’ of stones on a slope, particles in a river or atoms in a gas (Cloke et a l 1991, p 69).

Even within the ranks of geographers involved in geography as spatial science there was some contestation about the desirability of such a conception of people, partic­ ularly by advocates of a behavioural approach to human geography (see Box 2.2). From the early 1970s the number and scale of objections to this portrayal of people began to increase, with a series of calls being made for the development a more

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


recognisably ‘human’ human geography: a human geography which had an ontol­ ogy centred around the realites of people and being human, as opposed to a geogra­ phy in which people appeared virtually indistinguishable from inanimate stones or soil particles. So, for example, Entrikin (1976: 616) argued for a humanistic geogra­ phy which rejected spatial science’s ‘overly objective, narrow, mechanistic and deterministic view of man [sic]’ and was concerned with ‘the aspects of man which are most distinctively “human”: meaning, value, goals, and purposes’. Similarly, Ley and Samuels (1978: 2) called for a human geography which put ‘man ... back together again with all the pieces in place, including a heart and even a soul, with feelings as well as thoughts, with some sense of secular and perhaps transcendental meaning’.

Box 2.2: Behavioural approaches to geography In the 1960s some researchers began to question some of the behavioural assumptions which underpinned theorising within spatial scientific geography. In particular they began to question whether theories based on neo-classical economic laws relied on a notion of an ‘economic rational man’ which was, first, far from universal and, second, might indeed be completely untenable. A key early study which touched on both issues was by Wolpert (1964). With regard to the first issue, Wolpert argued that many Swedish farmers were ‘satifisers’ rather than ‘optimisers’: that is they were not really concerned about maximising profits by keeping costs down and maximising revenues, but were happy just to do enough to have a reasonable standard of living. Wolpert also highlighted how even if farmers were seeking optimal deci­ sions they often did not arrive at them, in large part because of limitations in their knowledge. This finding points to a fundamental criticism which can be made about the ontology of human behaviour underlying many neo-classical theories advanced within logical positivist spatial science. Specifically, many of these theories employed some notion of ‘economically rational behaviour’ associated with a so-called ‘economically-rational man' (note the gendering of the term). This was, as Blakemore (1981: 96) notes, a representation or theory of human of behaviour which assumes that people seek the maximisation of self-advantage or profit and posits that: ‘Given perfect knowledge and a perfect ability to utilise such information in a rational fashion, economic man maximises returns and minimizes costs’. However, as geographers such as Wolpert demonstrated, such assumptions are highly unrealistic in that not only are people not always profit maximisers but, more fundamentally, people vary in their abilities to process information and their knowledge is always ‘bounded’ or restricted, not least by issues of geography. People can never be perfect decision-makers because they never have knowledge of what existed everywhere. Rather people had spatially delimited knowledges, or as it was variously termed by behavioural geographers, ‘cognitive/mental maps’ (Downs and Stea 1973; Gould and White 1974), ‘perceptual fields’ (Potter 1976; 1977; 1979) or ‘behavioural environments’ (Boal and Livingstone 1989; Kirk 1952;


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1963). As demonstrated in Walmsley and Lewis (1993), a series of behavioural studies on topics such as location decision making by firms, residential deci­ sion making and migration, shopping behaviour, and use of recreation and leisure facilities, all showed human behaviour being conditioned by peoples’ spatialised perceptions, and how this perception was itself conditioned by geographies of behaviour. Such studies raised fundamental questions about the value of theories and models developed by spatial scientists, and for people such as Burton (1963), Brookfield (1969) and Mercer and Powell (1972) represented a move towards a non-positivist (and for the last two authors, at least, a humanistic) human geog­ raphy. Other geographers, notably Golledge and various co-workers, claimed that behavioural geography remained wedded, in large part, to a positivist approach (see Couclelis and Golledge 1983; Golledge and Couclelis 1984; Golledge and Rushton 1984; Golledge and Stimson 1987). Behavioural geog­ raphy can indeed be seen to sit astride positivist and humanistic philosophies. Epistemologically it appeared highly positivist in the stress often given to scientific methodology; a detached, so-called ‘objective’, attitude to research; hypothesis construction and testing; quantified measurements and mathemati­ cal formulations. Ontologically, the positioning is a bit more ambiguous in that, as in positivist spatial science, considerable emphasis was given to connecting theoretical ideas with observed regularities across space and there was a universalising view of people which centred on them being rational decision makers. However, in contrast to the neo-classical theoretical assumptions which under­ pinned much of spatial science, within behavioural geography rationality was always ‘bounded’ and could take many forms apart from profit maximisation. Behavioural geographers were hence quite happy to accept that people would act in what from the outside would appear to be highly unpredictable ways, this unpredictability stemming from the degree to which people’s aims and percep­ tions corresponded to or differed from other people’s and from the theoretical predictions of the researcher. Overall one can conclude that behavioural geog­ raphers rejected some elements of the theories and explanations of spatial science whilst, at the same time, enacting some of the same epistemological and ontological fundamentals.

Notions of a heart and a soul, of feelings and of meanings, would all have been viewed as imaginary rather than real by positivists such as Comte and any consid­ eration of them viewed as unnecessary metaphysics. Likewise within geography as spatial science, such notions would have been largely excluded from considera­ tion either on the grounds that they were incapable of precise and replicable obser­ vation, or that they were merely distortions from some underlying rational order. However, for humanistic geographers such notions were seen as central to concep­ tions of humanity in general and to understanding the behaviour of individual people.

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


Humanistic geographers were also sceptical about whether human behaviour was conditioned by universal laws, instead emphasising how people’s behaviour was often highly ‘irregular’ and not really linked to ‘rational calculation’ as implied within positivist and behavioural approaches. By contrast, humanistic geographers argued that much of human activity was both highly irregular and might be seen as ‘non-rational’ if not ‘irrational’. In other words, it might well be conditioned by things other than rational calculation of the costs and benefits of any particular action. People’s behaviour, for example, might be conditioned by habit and routine; by emotions and experiences about which people are only dimly aware and only partly able to account for; and through the unconscious, which by definition is not open to conscious thought and decision making. Such arguments led humanistic geographers away from many of the sources of inspiration used by spatial scientists, such as physics and neo-classical economies, and towards a variety of other literatures. Some geographers of a behavioural persua­ sion turned to cognitive psychology; others such as Meinig (1983), Pocock (1981) and Porteous (1985) turned to art, history and other subjects in the humanities; while yet others turned to philosophy, with a range of approaches being promoted, includ­ ing phenomenology, existentialism, idealism, pragmatism and symbolic interactionism. Fuller details of these approaches are provided in Boxes 2.3 to 2.6, but simplifying greatly it is possible to see idealism as an attempt to discover conscious thoughts that influence human behaviour; phenomenology as being concerned with how people relate, consciously, sub-consciously and unconsciously, to objects in the world; existentialism as having a focus on the experiences people gain in the world; and pragmatism/social interactionism as concerned with ideas formed in the context of social activities.

Box 2.3: Phenomenology An early port of call in the search for a philosophical grounding for humanistic geography was phenomenology. Philosophically, this term is generally traced back to the work of Edmund Husserl, a German philosopher writing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Husserl was very critical about the application of natural science perspectives and methods onto the study of human culture and society, arguing that each academic discipline had its own particular ‘domain of investigation’ (Christensen 1982: 51) and probably asso­ ciated particular methodologies, which should relate to essences (or eide). These essences were essential, ‘deep’ meanings formed by how people relate to things in the world around them. For Husserl there were ‘transcendental’, that is universally present but not necessarily consciously recognised, relationships between people and objects. People both experience and become conscious of objects in the worlds around them and also possess intentions towards objects in terms of how to relate to them: are these things to be used as ‘objects’ without any thought of these entities having such things as consciousness, emotions and rights; are these things to be ignored for having no use; or are these entities


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‘subjects’ to be treated in a manner which acknowledges various normative rights and human faculties. As discussed in the text, Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology shared with positivism a universalised ontology, although there are important differ­ ences between positivist ‘universal laws’ and Husserl’s ‘intentional essences’ (see Cloke et al. 1991; Pickles 1985). Epistemologically, differences between phenomenology and positivism were even more clear-cut, with Husserl being very critical of the empiricist notion that knowledge is constructed through the senses. For Husserl much of what makes phenomena of significance is not accessible through direct experience in that people relate to things un- and sub­ consciously as well as consciously. Indeed, Husserl suggests that conscious­ ness often blinds people to what is of most significance; a problem which he felt was characteristic of much of scientific thought in the early twentieth century (see Husserl 1965). Husserl was not anti-science but rather felt that scientific theories and methods often got in the way of grasping the essences of phenomena. He advocated that all existing ideas about phenomena should be forgotten, or ‘bracketed out’, so that the resulting essences could be recognised (a process known as phenomenological reduction or epoche). Once this was done, he argued, it would then be possible distinguish distinct sciences, each with their own field of investigation centred on one or more essences. As discussed in the text, these ideas were employed by some humanistic geographers to argue for a refocusing of human geography on people’s rela­ tionships to place, space and nature. It is also suggested that over time there was a general movement away from Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology towards the constitutive phenomenology of people such as Merleau-Ponty and Schutz (e.g. Buttimer 1976; Ley 1977). As Gregory (1978: 126) notes, Schutz rejected Husserl’s concern with uncovering the ‘essences’ of social phenomena and its associated discarding of people’s preconceptions. For Schutz these preconceptions constituted a central ontological focus because it was through these that people made sense of and acted upon the world in which they lived. Shutz’s phenomenology was concerned with intentionalities directed at myriad constituents of everyday life rather than seeking transcendental intentionalities from which to construct a framework for the conduct of science. Geographers drawing on the work of Schutz have often focused their studies on the takenfor-granted understandings developed in people’s everyday environments or lifeworlds (see Ley 1977). This work has taken the varied everyday experiences of people much more seriously than was the case with much of the work inspired by Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology, and has as a result come to address issues of concern to people inspired by existentialism: indeed the writings of Schutz and Merleau-Ponty has been described as existential phenomenology (Cloke et al. 1991: 72; Peet 1998: 39-45).

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography

Box 2.4: Existentialism Existential philosophies can be seen to focus on how people exist in and expe­ rience the world. In many philosophies experience is seen as either a problem to be over come, as in structuralism, or else is reduced to some narrow variant of experience, such as sensed observations in empiricism and positivisms, or cognition in behavioural and idealist philosophies. Existentialism, as Peet (1998: 36) puts it, ‘recurrently deals with the emotional life, the feelings, the moods and the effects through which people are involved in the world’. It seeks to address the whole range of ways of experiencing and existing in the world, although particular existentialists have often focused on particular forms of experience and existence. Initial references to existential philosophers by humanistic geographers often focused on one of two claims about human experience and existence. Humanistic geographers such as Relph (1970; 1976), Tuan (1971) and Pickles (1985), for example, drew on the work of the German philosopher Heidegger who addressed notions of space and place in his books The Question o f Being (Heidegger 1958) and Being and Time (Heidegger 1962). Heidegger argued that Western philosophy had adopted overly abstract, dehumanised, notions of these concepts. By contrast, Heidegger argued for the development of an ontology which focused on how people related to space in their everyday lives, and which saw peoples’ relationships with space as being embodied and expe­ riential as opposed to external and geometrical. He suggested, for example, that people relate to things in their world through what he described as deseverance and directionality where the former constitutes a ‘de-distancing’ whereby people feel close to things that they are familiar with or feel they understand, while the latter relates to the extent to which people are orientated towards something (see Peet 1998: 41). Deseverance connects closely to notions of place attachment and dwelling which were the focus of Relph’s interest in the work of Heidegger. Further details of Relph’s work is provided in the text, which also relates claims that his existentialism creates an overly romantic view of place attachment as well as adopting an overly monolithic conception of what the human person or being (or dasein as a Heideggerian philosopher might call it) is. In some contrast to the romanticism of Relph’s appropriation of Heidegger, although not to the monolithic construct of the human subject, Samuels (1978; 1981) draws on the existentialism of Buber (1957) and Sartre (1958) to suggest that a universal aspect human existence was being alienated from the world around us: of being ‘set apart from the world around them’ so that, in turn, they can ‘enter into relationships’ with parts of that world (Walmsley and Lewis 1993: 17). Notions of alienation are central to many strands of Marxism, and as Peet (1998: 113) notes, Sartre moved from an ‘existential phenomenology to awards


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an existential Marxism’. The notion of ‘setting apart’ so as to ‘enter into rela­ tions with’ may indeed be seen to describe the subject-object relations which characterise human productive activity. Despite such clear connections, calls to make use of Sartre’s existential Marxism by people such as Baker (1984) have not really been followed up within geography. Instead what has emerged most strongly from geography’s encounter with existential philosophy is a broad geographical existentialism (Cloke et al. 1991) which, although making little or no reference to the likes of Heidegger, Buber or Sartre, is concerned with how people experience the worlds around them, such as Rowles’ (1978a; 1978b) studies of elderly people’s experiential involvements with places and places.

Box 2.5: Idealism Idealism is a term which has been widely used to characterise philosophical arguments and positionings. It can be seen to have been broadly used to refer to people who either adopt: i) an ontology whereby people’s ideas, or conscious thoughts, determine much, if not all, of what goes on in the world (or metaphys­ ical idealism as it is often called (Johnston et al 2000: 367)); or ii) an epistemol­ ogy whereby knowledge is limited to that which is perceived (or epistemological idealism (Johnston et al. 2000: 367)). The term idealism is often associated with the German philosopher Hegel, and the critique of him by Marx. Hegel argued that historically societies moved through a series of ‘spiri­ tual forms’ or cultures, and that this movement was a progressive one in that each stage represented a resolution of some problematic features earlier cultures. History for Hegel was seen to centre around the perfection of human consciousness. Marx, however, vehemently rejected Hegel’s view of historical development characterising his own work as ‘historical materialism’ to distant himself from Hegel’s idealism. He argued in the book The German Ideology (Marx and Engels 1970) that Hegel and other idealists had misunderstood historical devel­ opment and that rather than culture driving human activity and historical change, consciousness was created by human activity, most notably through developments in productive activity. It was from such arguments that notions of the economy determining culture have been taken by many Marxists, although these claims have also been widely contested within Marxism (see Chapter 3). The relationship between culture and economic practices and relationships was a key feature of debates between humanistic and Marxist geographers in the late 1970s and early 1980s (see Chouinard and Fincher 1983; Duncan and Ley 1982), and also resurfaced in discussions of postmodernism and post-struc­ turalism, philosophies which were identified by people such as Harvey (1992) as exhibiting a discursive idealism which needed to be replaced by more mate­ rialist forms of analysis (see later in text).

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography

Human geographers have made little direct use of Hegel’s idealism, although notions of paradigm shifts (Box 2.1) and other ‘Whiggish’ accounts of the development of geography might be seen to rely on some broadly Hegelian logic (see Doel 1993). More direct connections were made to idealism by Guelke (1974; 1981; 1982a; 1982b) who turned to the historical idealism advanced by the historian Collingwood (1956). Collingwood argued that ‘all history is the history of human thought’ in the sense that all actions were, he claimed, the result of reasoned thought. Hence anyone wanting to understand human actions in the past, or a product of such actions such as the formation of a textual document, image or landscape feature, needed to address the thoughts that lay behind the action. This was to be achieved either by seeking to recon­ struct those thoughts directly or to put one’s self in the position and mind set of those actors and to ‘rethink their thoughts’ in a process of empathetic under­ standing, or verstehen (Guelke 1974). Guelke’s turn to historical idealism was stimulated by unease with positivistic approaches in human geography in general and historical geography in particular (see Guelke 1975; 1977; 1978). However, despite his criticisms of positivist approaches, Guelke’s idealism has itself been seen to constitute a continuation of positivism (Harrison and Livingstone 1979). Guelke, like behavioural geographers, retained an epistemological emphasis on detachment as a route to objectivity and on verification through methodological certainty (see Box 2.2), and also an ontological emphasis on rational cognitive decision making. Where Guelke’s idealism did differ from behaviouralism was in its emphasis on explaining individual actions and not seeking to formulate universalised notions of human cognition and behavioural patterns.

Box 2.6: Pragmaticism and symbolic interactionism Logical positivism in geography is widely associated with the work of the socalled ‘Chicago School’ of urban sociologists (see Box 9.1). However, in the 1980s people such as Jackson and Smith (Jackson and Smith 1984; Smith 1984) argued that this work had been very selectively interpreted by spatial science and that much of it was inspired by humanistic concerns, and partic­ ularly by ‘pragm atic’ and ‘interactionist’ philosophies of people such as Charles Peirce, John Dewey, William James and George Herbert Mead. There are important differences between these writers, and in particular between the pragmatism of the first two and the symbolic interactionism of the latter two (Smith 1984: 354). However, these writers all sought to recognise the every­ dayness of knowledge construction: in their everyday actions and interac­ tions people are making interpretations about the world, evaluating the value of these interpretations, and often reformulating them in the light of subse­ quent experiences.



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Pragmatism and symbolic interactionism very much build similar ontologies as the constitutive phenomenology of people such as Schutz (see Box 2.3), although they tend to emphasise interpersonal, subject-subject relationships (or inter-subjective relations) as opposed to the subject-object relationships which was often the principal focus of phenomenologists. Pragmatists also very much focused on epistemological issues and on applying arguments about the construction of everyday knowledges to their own knowledge. As Hoy and McCarthy (1994: 8) comment, for pragmatists all practices ‘including epistemic practices like theorizing - have to viewed in their socio-cultural context if they are to be properly understood’. Scientific knowledge, as much as any other form of knowledge, was seen to be created inter-subjectively, to be highly fallible and likely to need constant revision, and to gain its validity through its application within social practices. The arguments of people such as Jackson and Smith, and also Ley (1977) and Duncan (1978), were not really followed up by other human geographers. Recent years have, however, seen a revival of interest in pragmatism within the social sciences and philosophy, with people such as Habermas (1978; 1987b; 1988) suggesting they pointed to key issues of ‘practical understanding’ which distinguish the study of human world from the study of the non-human (see Unwin 1992, especially: 35-41). Another source of renewal has been the work of Rorty (1979; 1982), who has championed a return to pragmatism in a critique of representation and universalising theories which, as discussed later in the text, has very much been caught up in the formulation of postmodern and post-structural geographies Although humanistic geographers often criticised the spatial scientist’s search for universal laws, in many ways they reproduced this search in their own work. Humanistic geographers, particularly those influenced by existentialism and phenom­ enology, often described the purpose of their human geographies in terms of uncover­ ing some universal relationships or attachments that people had to such geographical objects as ‘place’, ‘landscape’, ‘nature’ and ‘space’. The precise ways in which these relationships were understood varied considerably between humanistic geographers. Tuan (1971; 1976) and Relph (1976; 1985), for example, draw on the phenomenology of Husserl (see Box 2.3) to imply that scientific approaches to geography were obscuring some basic ‘true’ or ‘essential’ meanings of geography. A clear illustration of this is provided by Tuan (1976: 268) who claimed that humanistic geography had ‘as one of its tasks, the study of geographical knowledge’ in all its forms, forms which should be seen to range ‘from the “mental maps” of migrating birds to our own “mental maps’” , from ‘implicit knowing to explicit knowledge’, including but not simply the ‘highly conscious and specialist’ geographical ‘lore promoted within ... the culture of academic departments’. Relph (1985: 16) made very similar claims, arguing that a ‘sense of wonder about the earth and its places’ was a key motivator of people’s initial interest in geography and that this ‘original’ aspect of geography had become ‘submerged’, either being excluded as being of no significance or as being obscured within the analytical generalisations of spatial science.

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


Slightly earlier, Relph (1976: 14) had drawn on the notion of ‘dwelling’ as outlined by Heidegger (see Box 2.3) to develop similar arguments. In particular, he argued that a fully human, ‘authentic’ sense of place lay in a sense of belonging or ‘insidemess’ which came from ‘a direct and genuine experience of the entire complex of the iden­ tity of places - not mediated or distorted through a series of quite arbitrary social conventions about how that experience should be’ (Relph 1976: 14). For Samuels, by contrast, the human condition was one of alienation from place: the sine qua non of human existence is objectivity (i.e. detachment or estrangement), which is nothing other than the act of making things (the world) distant from one-self ... All men are conditioned by distance and are - by definition - alienated ... All men, insofar as they are human ... are ontologically alienated. The differences among men (culturally and historically), in this regard, are a function of their success in overcoming, reinforcing or revolting against their alienation (Samuels 1978: 26-9).

Where such humanistic geographies differed from the work of spatial scientists was that they sought to uncover the universal not in spatial arrangement, in ordered sets of dots, lines and hexagons on a map, but instead in some ‘basic’, ‘essential’ or ‘authen­ tic’ way in which people related to their worlds. As Cloke et al. (1991: 81) record, much of humanistic geography was hence seeking, ‘to tease out the “transcendental” (universal, timeless, placeless) essences supposedly embodied in how all people experience space, place and environment’. Cloke et al. add, however, that ‘what has also surfaced on occasions is a concern for the more “everyday geographies” of the places in which we live and labour’ (p. 81). They point particularly to the work of Ley (1974; 1977; 1988) and his use of the Schutz’s notion of iifew orld’ (see Box 2.3 and 2.6), which was also the focus of work by geographers such as Buttimer (1976) and Seamon (1979) and was picked up in the social theories of Habermas (1984; 1987b) and Giddens (1984) which were them­ selves to exert a considerable influence on some geographers. Overall, two broad ontological positions can be identified within humanistic geog­ raphy. First there was a strand that corresponds to what Pickles (1985: 45) has described as phenomenological geography. This was an approach to humanistic geography which sought to demonstrate that people have some form of universal relationship to geographical objects such as place, space, landscape or nature. Second, there were other geographers who concentrated much more on describing the diversity of perceptions and emotions people had about these objects. This corre­ sponds to what Pickles describes as geographical phenomenology, although Cloke et al. (1991: 83) suggest that the term geographical existentialism might be more appropriate. In the 1970s advocates of both ontological positions used the term ‘humanistic’ to characterise their work. However, by the late 1980s and early 1990s some of the human geographers involved in the second strand of research began to describe their work more in relation to other philosophies, notably those of postmodernism (e.g Ley 1989b; 1993). As part of this movement towards a more postmodern perspective, and also in association with the emergence of feminist geography (see Box 2.11), there emerged some criticism of the universalising strand of humanistic geography. Rose, for example, argued that their was an ‘authoritarian’ or ‘positional claim ’ claim embedded within the humanistic celebration of notions of place:

Contested Worlds


The implication of this celebration of place is that those of us who are not interested in place are less than alive, less than human, less than the sensitive geographers who are aware of such important things (Rose 1993a: 50).

Humanistic geographers such as Tuan and Relph universalised their own interest in places (and equally, one might add, in such geographical entities as space, nature and landscape) in that they implied it was an interest shared by everybody. They also implied that understanding place was a complex task requiring skills such as empathy, sensitivity, artistry and creativity. As Rose notes, the implications of such views are that anyone who is not interested in place is either less capable or less inter­ esting than those who are. Rose goes on to critique some of the assumptions made by humanistic geogra­ phers. She argues, for instance, that humanistic geography falsely assumes that men’s experiences of place can be taken to represent some universal/essential human rela­ tionship to place. She argues that when humanistic geographers talked about belong­ ing and dwelling they tend to draw upon a highly gendered conception of home, seeing it as a place of rest, of recreation and re-creation. Rose argues that while this may be men’s experience of the home, it is often not the experience of women for whom the home is often a site of exploitation, repression and confinement. Such criticisms may be seen to have caused movement away from humanistic philosophies, particularly by those adopting the second ontological position which does not adopt the same universalising position critiqued by Rose. However, caution is needed because the movement occurred somewhat in advance of Rose’s critique. One reason for this is that the movement may have related rather more to epistemological concerns than to a sustained ontological critique. Humanistic Epistemologies As mentioned in the introduction to this section, humanistic geographers not only argued for a greater recognition of people as the subject of human geography research but also argued for a greater recognition of the role that people had in the creation of knowledge. Positivism, in both its Cometean and logical forms, was a ‘normative’ epis­ temology in that it was concerned with how people should construct knowledge rather than how they actually did do it, which it implied was often not as it should be. Positivist knowledge if correctly created was seen as ‘objective’ knowledge unaffected by the ‘subjectivity’ of the researcher and divorced from such things as personal values, emotions and experiences. Humanistic geographers argued, however, that in reality subjectivity entered into all stages of the research: from the choice of research topics, through into ‘every stage of data categorisation, collection and analysis’ (Mercer 1984: 165), and right through into selection of how to present findings. As Cloke et al. (1991: 59) comment, for humanistic geographers there is no knowledge which is not ‘indeli­ bly’ marked by ‘human attributes and products’. Notions of objectivity were hence seen by many humanistic geographers as spurious. Furthermore, humanistic geogra­ phers often also argued that notions of divorcing knowledge creation from human values was undesirable in that it discouraged researchers from considering how their research might actually help people. Humanistic geographers, on the other hand, argued that a concern for the well-being of people, or of human kind if one adopted the

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


more universalising approach, should be a central reason for doing geography. The purpose of doing geography for them was not about producing knowledge for its own sake, but rather producing knowledge that would make the world a more humane place, a world in which people might feel at home. Such an epistemological view posed serious challenges to geographers, particu­ larly those schooled into empiricist and positivist ways of knowing. In response to this challenge, humanistic geographers turned in a variety of directions. Some, such as Berdoulay (1978), Buttimer (1978) and Jackson and Smith (1984), turned for inspiration to the ideas and practices of earlier, and now seemingly neglected geogra­ phers and associated researchers. Other humanistic geographers looked to the prac­ tices - both in terms of research methods and with reference to wider practices of writing, disseminating and legitimating their research - of other, seemingly, nonscientific disciplines. Hence, Harris (1971, 1978) extolled the virtues of historians, Hart (1982) and Meinig (1983) those of the artist, and Jackson and Smith (1984) those of the anthropologists. A third route away from the methodology of science was a turn to philosophy, and in particular to philosophers who had actively criticised positivistic philosophies and/or developed seemingly radically different ideas. As previously mentioned, one early port of call for humanistic geographers was the phenomenology of Husserl (Box 2.3). One of the attractions of his work for humanistic geographers was that he had argued, most prominently in a series of lectures in Prague in 1935 (see Husserl 1965), that the techniques of the physical sciences could not be extended into the study culture and society. In particular he argued that European society was at a point of ‘crisis’ because of a ‘sickness’ which stemmed from application of natural science perspectives and methods onto the study of human culture and society. Husserl took a largely negative view of the empirical and positivist sciences and argued that there was a need for people to forget, or ‘bracket out’ their preconceptions, including those established through scientific methods, when studying phenomena. Husserl argued that all objects had an essential meaning or essence, that the purpose of science should be to recover that essence, and this recovery could be achieved by phenomenological reduction in which all existing ideas about an object are forgotten and the resulting ‘pure relation’ is thereby revealed (see Box 2.4). Tuan and Relph drew on such arguments to suggest that the deploy­ ment of phenomenology within geography would provided a way of ‘bracketing out’ scientific and academic presuppositions and thereby permitting geographers to see things as they really are, including the recognition of the centrality of the notion of a sense of place. There are, however, a number of major criticisms which have been levelled at the notion of ‘bracketing out’ presuppositions (see Billinge 1977) and there was a percep­ tible, and arguably unsurprising, movement in the philosophical arguments of humanistic geography into those which can be said to lie more under the rubric of ‘existentialism’ than ‘phenomenology’, although the dividing line between the two is not always clear, particularly in the writings of geographers. One reason for this was that the turn towards experience as an object of study, which can be said to be a defin­ itive feature of existentialism, was prefigured in much of the earlier philosophical writing, of which geographers in the early 1970s were arguably only dimly aware. For instance, Husserl’s notion of ‘bracketing out’, of which Tuan and Relph made so much, had already been rejected by Alfred Schutz when he developed his


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‘constitutive’ or ‘existential phenomenology’ (see Box 2.4). Rather than wishing to bracket out social preconceptions, Schutz made the constitution of these preconcep­ tions his focus of attention. He did this through the concept of ‘lifeworld’, which has been defined as “the culturally defined spatiotemporal setting or horizon of everyday life” (Buttimer 1976: 277). Schutz argued that people live and act within a ‘reality or ‘world’ which is constituted through their own preconceptions of reality, which in turn are created through current and past experiences (see Schutz and Luckman 1973). Given this precedent, it is arguably unsurprising that after a short period of time humanistic geographers began to ‘talk less in terms of transcending the everyday and more in terms of studying those everyday meanings etched into the lifeworlds of particular peoples, societies or cultures’ (Cloke et al. 1991: 72-73). In other words, they moved from Pickles (1985: 45) ‘phenomenological geography’ towards a ‘geographical phenomenology’ or ‘geographical existentialism’. One might add that they may well have moved less as a consequence of reflection on the relative ontolo­ gies of these approaches and rather more as a result of the epistemological dilemmas the former approach raised. Having said this, however, it is also important to recog­ nise that philosophical debates always occur set within a social context which may itself play a profound role in determining their outcomes. A ‘phenomenological geography’, for example, would not only fall foul of criteria of technical utility favoured by positivist geographers and hence be likely to be seen ‘as an irrelevant failure’ (Unwin 1992: 146), but it might also, as Gregory (1978) notes, been seen as a failure against other, more socially practical criteria; including those espoused within the radical and structuralist philosophies to which attention will now move.

Radicalism and Structuralism in Geography So far philosophies have been discussed with regard to both epistemologies and ontologies. However, philosophical positionings are often far from clear-cut as is well evidenced by the emergence of radicalism and structuralism in human geography (see also Box 2.2 on behavioural geography). Many accounts of the human geogra­ phy in the 1970s combine radicalism and structuralism, positing them as a third philosophy, standing against both positivism and humanism (see Johnston 1983b; 1997). However, in the following account radicalism will be discussed solely in asso­ ciation with epistemology, before considering structuralism as both ontology and epistemology. It is felt that this structure gives a clearer sense of some of the strands of philosophical ideas and contestations which characterised this period and produced a complex of mosaic of inter-related but significantly different approaches which have defied attempts to formulate some ‘all-embracing, single descriptive, adjective’ (Johnston 1997:209). Significant shards in the mosaic to be surveyed in the following section include anarchic, critical, feminist, Marxist, political economic, radical and structuralist geographies. Radical Geographies and the Politicisation o f Epistemology As outlined in the preceding section, a central element within humanistic geography was an epistemological critique of spatial science’s notion of objectivity. One of the

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


main messages of humanistic geography was that subjectivity lay at the centre of knowledge production and could not be simply ushered away by the employment of some particular set of methodological principles. However, another line of epistemo­ logical critique emerged in geography in the 1970s, and this line of critique was often directed as much at humanistic as to positivistic geographies. The line of critique sought to politicise knowledge: to show how knowledge production and use is inti­ mately connected into the operation of social power and associated conflicts and struggles. Positivistic science sought to isolate scientists from their social context: the best scientist was seen to be one who is unswayed by personal values or political direc­ tion. This has been described as a scientistic understanding of science, one which sees science as some activity above or divorced from society (Phillips 1994a). This is a very widespread viewpoint, indeed Said (1995: 10) has argued that, ‘the determining impingement on most knowledge produced in the contemporary W est... is that it be non-political, that is, scholarly, academic, impartial, above partisan or small-minded doctrinal belief’. He adds, however, that, ... in practice the reality is much more problematic. No one has ever devised a method of detaching the scholar from the circumstances of life, from the fact of his [sic] involvement (conscious or unconscious) with a class, a set of beliefs, a social position, or from the mere activity of being a member of society (Said 1995: 10).

Humanistic geographers, whilst generally not adopting scientistic self-understand­ ings, did tend to separate knowledge production off from social context, with knowl­ edge often being viewed as a product of individual consciousness with little or no regard as to how this might connect to, or indeed differ from, the understandings of others. Furthermore, whilst some humanistic geographers argued that it had at its core a social interest in making the world more humane, this concern appears some­ what peripheral to many of its studies. Indeed some ‘hints of ... elitism’ have been identified within humanistic studies (Johnston et al. 1994: 85), while, as already discussed, Rose (1993a) sees embodiments of a masculinist authoritarianism. There was certainly no real attempt to document the social impacts of humanistic geogra­ phy - to see whether these studies really did make life more humane - and hence one can suggest that humanistic geography remained as much, if not more, of an ‘ivory tower’ exercise than did spatial science. However, whilst academics of both humanist and scientific persuasions might have seen themselves as producers of knowledge isolated from society, people outside academia often tend to judge subjects on what ‘use’ they are in the so-called ‘real world’, which generally means their worlds. Planners and policy makers, for example, often look to academics to suggest policy changes; business organisation often look to academics to provide marketable products; while governments look to academics to solve political problems and to provide a good return on their invest­ ments. During the late 1960s and early 1970s a number of geographers began to feel that such people were beginning to look at geography and ask questions about the amount and value of the knowledge they were receiving from geographers. Prince (1971: 52), for example, suggested that geographers were beginning to experience ‘a deep sense of failure’ which was at least in part due to people outside geography not


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taking geographers seriously. Prince argued that the knowledge that geographers were producing was ‘not being put to good use’ in that it was not being applied to solving problems. In particular Prince argued that geographers had learnt much about ‘ways and means of reducing hunger, disease and poverty, but little had been achieved’ (p. 152). He also suggested that, ‘educated people had not been instrumen­ tal in stopping a barbarous war [Vietnam] and that, within their own universities, they had failed to bring about overdue reforms’ (Prince 1971: 152). In other words, Prince was suggesting that the knowledge of academic geographers might be an irrelevancy: ignored by policy makers and completely ineffectual in influencing events such as an overseas war or even how one runs a university. For many geographers thoughts about the value of geographical knowledge were expressed in essentially monetary terms: if policy makers were viewing the products of geographers as irrelevant then they would presumably stop funding geographical research and teaching (e.g see Abler 1993; Berry 1970; Chisholm 1971). Other geog­ raphers, however, expressed concern about the links between knowledge and society in less directly self-interested terms. In the early 1970s various geographers, perhaps most notably Richard Peet, argued that geography needed to be changed to make it socially relevant. Peet (1977: 33) claimed that geography needed to be changed from being an ‘eclectic irrelevancy’, in which academic geographers studied whatever comes into their head or attracts their interest, into a ‘study of urgent social prob­ lems’. These calls for social relevance were often connected into notions of an applied geography, although discussions of the latter often drew very heavily on arguments relating to disciplinary self-interest and also in the 1970s had a very clear public policy focus (see Coppock 1974; Harvey 1974; White 1972). While geographers such as Prince were basically blaming the rest of society for not taking geographical knowledge seriously, for Peet the blame for the low esteem of geographical knowledge lay much more with the geographers themselves. Geographers were, he argued, failing to apply their knowledge, their spatial theories, to clearly evident social problems: It must be obvious to anyone who has ever travelled in the United States that over wide areas ... and in large segments of central cities either the majority or a large minority live in poverty .... Why is it then that, faced by widespread poverty, we have done so little work on the geography of poverty (Peet 1971: 99).

To help rectify this omission and thereby help solve the problem, Peet undertook a spatial analysis of ‘poor, hungry America’. This was basically an attempt to apply the techniques of spatial science to resolving social problems, and can be seen as a fore­ runner of a variant of applied geography characterised as welfare geography (see Smith 1977; 1979). Gradually some geographers, including Peet himself (see Peet 1975), did begin to question whether one could really hope to solve social problems using the tech­ niques of ‘spatial science’. Increasingly the view developed that they were not, in large part because some of the processes which were creating social problems were being perpetuated by the knowledge being produced by ‘spatial scientists’. Particularly significant in this regard was David Harvey’s arguments on ghettos (Harvey 1972; 1973). Harvey, who a few years earlier written Explanation in

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


Geography (Harvey 1969) which was seen by many people at the time and since as the fullest exposition of geography as a logical positivist spatial science, was by early 1970s arguing, like Peet, for a geography orientated towards solving social problems. The purpose of studying ghettos should, he argued, be ‘to eliminate ghettos’ ( Harvey 1973: 137; cf. Berry 1972;). This would be achieved, he argued, if geographers could identify the causes of ghettos and the policy makers could remove these causes. Harvey argued that geographers had for some time known about the cause of ghettos, namely ‘competitive bidding for the use of land’ (Harvey 1973: 136). Ghettos are created, Harvey argued, because some people do not have enough money to bid for all but the most run down of areas. He also argued that that the role of competitive bidding in determining land-use had been long recognised in spatial science, it was after all the basis of Von Thiinen’s theory of land-use first elaborated in 1826 and as mentioned earlier, widely adopted within geography as spatial science. But if the cause has long been recognised then why do ghettos still exist? Harvey raises the problem which had troubled Hugh Prince a couple of years earlier. Harvey, however, goes on to specify an answer to this problem, suggesting that in part it stems from policy makers unwillingness or inability to enact the full implications of the theory, namely the removal of the competitive bidding system for land (or the land-market) (see also Harvey 1974). Another contributory factor, he argued, was geographers providing ‘second best solutions’ which did not fully follow the course of action suggested by their theories but were offered up as part of a concern to do something to alleviate aspects of a problem. However, for Harvey, by doing this geographers were simply colluding in the perpetuation of the problem they are studying. Knowledge becomes, in his words ‘suffused with apologetics for the status quo’ and the theories advanced becomes ‘status quo theory’, which he defines as: a theory which is grounded in the reality it seeks to portray and which accurately represents the phenomena with which it deals at a moment in time. But by having ascribed a universal truth status to the proposition it contains, it is capable of yielding prescriptive policies which can result only in the perpetuation of the status quo (Harvey 1973: 150).

Status quo theory is a theory that accurately describes the world as it is, but which does not ask the question ‘Is the way the world is, the way the world should beT It does not have what Behabib (1986) calls ‘anticipatory-utopian’ ambitions as well as ‘explanatory-diagnostic’ ones (see Johnston, 1994a: 88). It thus universalises the present, foreclosing the possibilities of future change, and often also ignoring the extent to which the present situation did not exist in the past. So, for example, not only does neo-classical economics, on which Von Thiinen and spatial science drew heavily, fail to consider if social life should be organised by market relations, but it also often ignores the extent to which market society is a modem creation, a point which Harvey went on to discuss later in his book Social Justice and the City (Harvey 1973, chapter 6). However, sticking with his discussion of theory and the study of the ghetto, Harvey contrasts ‘status quo theory’ with two other types of theory: ‘counter­ revolutionary’ and ‘revolutionary’ theory. The former he defines as:


Contested Worlds a theory which may or may not appear grounded in the reality it seeks to portray, but which obscures, be-clouds and generally obfuscates (either by design or accident) our ability to comprehend that reality. Such theory is usually .... logically coherent, easily manipulable, aesthetically appealing, or just new or fashionable; but it is in some way quite divorced from the reality it purports to represent. A counter-revolutionary theory automatically frustrates either the creation or the implementation of viable policies (Harvey 1973: 150).

Counter-revolutionary theory is a theory which, in important respects, fails to help people understand the world. Harvey argues, however, that the failures of such theory should not be taken to imply that they have no impact or consequence. Rather, he suggests they may have very series social implications, such as diverting people’s attention away from significant issues and/or actively justifying actions which serve particular interests and do not address issues such as social inequalities and injustices. The final type of theory identified by Harvey is ‘revolutionary theory’, which he suggests is, theory which is firmly grounded in the reality it seeks to represent, the individual proposi­ tions of which are ascribed a contingent truth status (they are in the process of becoming true or false) ... A revolutionary theory offers real choices for future moments in the social process by identifying immanent choices in an existing situation. The implementation of these choices serves to validate the theory and to provide the grounds for formulations of new theory. A revolutionary theory consequently holds out the prospect of creating truth rather than merely finding it (Harvey 1973: 151).

Revolutionary theory therefore seeks to explain both how the world is, and how it could be. Revolutionary theory addresses ways of living which are not necessarily part of an existing situation. Such a theory could be seen as ‘radical’ or ‘revolution­ ary’ in the sense that it seeks fundamental changes from existing situations, and indeed in the 1970s there were a series of calls to develop more ‘revolutionary’ and ‘radical’ forms of geography. A range of different forms of radical/revolutionary theory were proposed including anarchism (see Brietbar 1975; 1981; Dunbar 1981); liberalism (Harvey 1973, part 1; Morril 1969/1970; Muir 1979) and Marxism (Harvey 1973, part 2 and 3; Peet 1977), with much debate centring of the logics of their interpretations and their respective degrees of radicalism in both theory and practice (Clark and Dear 1978; Duncan 1979; Mannion and Whitelegg 1979; Muir 1978; 1979; Overton 1976; Peet 1978; Walmsley and Sorenson 1980). Others, notably Gregory (1978) talked of ‘committed explanation’ as part of a ‘critical geog­ raphy’ which is was both critical of itself and, crucially, was a ‘critique of the status quo’ (Newby and Buttel 1980: 2; see also Phillips 1994a). Today such critiques are not seen as so all encompassing as the terms revolutionary and radical seem to imply. Rather a series of particular critical geographies, connected to the interests of partic­ ular people, have been developed, notably feminist geography (Box 2.11), queer geography and post-colonial geography. For Gregory (1978: 76) a ‘critical geography’ also had to encompass ‘structural explanations’, and indeed as outlined earlier many commentators on philosophy and human geography have combined radical/critical geography with structuralism. It is important, however, to note that not all of those who had broadly ascribed to notions

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of radical or critical geography have embraced structuralism. So, for example, Marxism, one of the early sources of inspiration and argument for radical geogra­ phers and frequently equated with structuralism - Johnston (1983a: 178), for instance, claimed that ‘marxism is a variant of the philosophy of structuralism’ (cf. Johnston 1997: 214) - has in a series of works been given humanistic arguments and positionings. Examples of this include the existential Marxism of Sartre (see Box 2.4 and also Baker 1984; Peet 1998) and also the ‘critical theory’ of people such as Habermas (see Habermas (1978; 1984; 1987b; 1988) and for general commentary, Unwin (1992) and Phillips (1994a)). Furthermore, many of the ‘particular critical geographies’ mentioned above have been in varying ways highly critical of structural­ ism but have retained committed to bring about social change. I will return to many of these critical geographies and to critiques of structuralism later in this chapter, but before that it is worth pausing to consider some of the epistemological and ontologi­ cal claims made during geography’s engagement with structuralist philosophies. Structuralist Epistemologies In both empiricist and positivist epistemologies observation was seen as central to the establishment of knowledge. One of the most significant features of structuralism was that it down-graded the status of observation as a guarantor of truth. As Gregory (1978: 76) records, structuralist approaches were ‘a form of enquiry which locates explanatory structures outside [of] the domain of immediate experience and problematizes the relationship between theory and observation’. Within the geography of the 1970s and 1980s when structuralist philosophies first started to be drawn upon by geographers, these ideas were often phrased in terms of looking not at ‘surface appearances’ but at ‘deep structures’, although this spatialisation of the ideas of struc­ turalism is not necessarily helpful in getting to an understanding of structuralism and its consequences for geography. Peet (1998: 112), for example, claims that structural­ ism is ‘the most misrepresented and under-appreciated period in social and geograph­ ical thought’. This call to move from surface to deep structure may in part be seen as a way of devaluing explanations of positivists: just as spatial scientists had damned empiricists for ‘not explaining just describing’, so structuralists could disparage spatial scientists for ‘simply describing the surface appearance of phenomena and not examining their deep causal structures’. However, geographical engagement with structuralism should be seen as more than simply rhetoric in that significantly different epistemo­ logical positions were advanced within structuralism vis-a-vis empiricism and posi­ tivism. So, for example, structuralists tended to reject the simplifications inherent in logical-positivist forms of explanation. As Peet put it, for structuralists ‘explanation does not consists of moving from the complex to the simple, but in replacing a less intelligible complexity by one that is more so’ (Peet 1998: 115). The structuralist anthropologist Levi-Strauss was, for example, highly sceptical about whether empir­ ical regularities lead to explanation. He argued that interacting variables might produce quite different outcomes, a situation he likened to a jig-saw cutting machine which has a cam shaft which is constrained to a limited range of movements but the order of which may vary and which can thereby produce an extremely large number of different puzzles (Levi-Strauss 1960). Levi-Strauss also envisaged that interacting


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variables might produce outcomes only some of which are realised. He therefore recommends the supplementation of empirical observations with consideration of logical models which explore all possible interactions between variables (see Gregory 1978; Levi-Strauss 1973; Walmsley and Lewis 1993). Levi-Strauss was also highly sceptical about studies which relied on people’s own accounts of situations and their causes. In part this was simply an additional conse­ quence related to problems of explaining though observation: if researchers found it hard to develop plausible explanation of situations why should other people to be able to do this. However, Levi-Strauss suggested a further reason for avoiding using the accounts of research subjects, claiming that these accounts, which he described as ‘conscious models’, may be positively misleading: conscious models ... which are usually known as ‘norms’, are by definition very poor ones, since they are not intended to explain the phenomena but to perpetuate them. Therefore structural analysis is confronted with a strange paradox well known to the linguist, that is: the more obvious structural organization is, the more difficult it becomes to reach it because of the inaccurate conscious models lying across the path which leads to it (Levi-Strauss 1953: 527).

Levi-Strauss argued for the development of ‘unconscious’ models or theories to explain reality. These were not so much theories of the role of the unconscious but rather models which made little or no use of the expressed views of research subjects. A similar sceptical attitude is also evident within Marxist discussions of ideology. As outlined clearly in Thompson (1984; 1990), while the term ideology is often used to simply refer to a particular set of beliefs, within the work of Marx it was often used as a pejorative term to imply a set of beliefs which were in some sense false and which actively misled people. The conception of ideology was picked up by Marxists such as Althusser (1969; Althusser and Balibar, 1970) who not only proposed a struc­ tural social ontology whereby societies were seen to be composed of economic, political-juridicial and ideological structures (see Castells (1977)), but also made an epistemological distinction between ‘science’ and ‘ideology’. As Gregory summarises it: Althusser suggests that ideology fastens on the manifest appearances of the social world and reproduces them as categories in an unexamined discourse ... Science [seeks] to construct and reconstruct sets of theoretical relations which transforms the structures of the social world (Gregory 1978: 109).

Science for Althusser does not involve simply reporting the ideas and accounts of research subjects, but rather an examination of these in the light of theoretical ideas. Furthermore, science also involves researchers working on their theoretical ideas, examining long held ideas and being prepared to, perhaps, give up established ways of thought that seemed previously ‘so clearly correct, so forcefully guaranteed’ (Mephan 1973: 116), in large part because they corresponded with our everyday, and in Althusser schemata ‘ideological’, experiences of the world. Science hence became ‘examined discourse’, counterpoised to unexamined ideologies which merely repro­ duced existing realities and ideas (see Gregory 1978; cf. Gregory 1994).

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Structuralist Ontologies The basic preposition of structuralism with reference to ontological issues is that empirical phenomena are created through the operation of ‘structures’. This state­ ment, however, raises the question, what constitutes a structure? The answer to this question is, as the following quote from Kroeber demonstrates, often far from easy to answer: ‘Structure’ ... tends to be applied indiscriminately because of the pleasurable connotations of its sound ... everything which is not wholly amorphous has a structure. So what structure adds to the meaning of our phrase appears to be nothing, except to provoke a degree of pleasant puzzlement (Kroeber 1948: 325).

Some of the commentaries on structuralism in geography arguably do little to dispel such puzzlement with a wholes series of terms being promoted, such as ‘empirical’, ‘functional’ and ‘transformational structuralism’ (Walmsley and Lewis 1993); ‘struc­ ture as construct’ and ‘structure as process’ (Johnston 1983b); ‘superstructures’, ‘infrastructures’ and ‘deep structures’ (Johnston 1997); ‘observable structures’, ‘collectivist (social) structures’ and ‘neuro-structural (formalist) structures’ (Gregory 1978). Whilst such a plethora of terms can be a source of confusion to people encounter­ ing these terms for the first time they do point to an important aspect of the term struc­ ture, namely that it can be seen to refer to quite a range of different things. Table 2.1, for example, highlights some of the different terms and characteristics that have been equated to the concept of structure, plus lists some illustrative examples. It should be noted that these conceptions of structure are not mutually exclusive and the works of the authors listed in Table 2.1 generally contain elements of some of the other conceptualisations. For example, Giddens retains the idea of structure as a non-observable, underlying feature whilst emphasising the notion of structure as resource. He also arguably makes some use of the notion of structure as constraint, although for some critics not enough use of this idea is made (Thompson 1984). In contrast, M arxist approaches of various persuasions, including the ‘structural Marxism’ associated with people such as Althusser (Althusser 1969; Althusser and Balibar, 1970) and Castells (1977), placed considerable stress on constraints, often via a critique of a voluntarism identified in other approaches. Humanistic, behav­ ioural and logical positivist spatial science were all criticised for over-emphasising ‘choice’, albeit in slightly different forms. Spatial science and behavioural approaches, despite their differences, both emphasised rational decision-making or, to put it another way, the exercise of choice over options is given central place. Humanistic geography, whilst critiquing the focus on rationality, still emphasised the exercise of human choice of options, often expressing it in terms of human creativity or human agency. The voluntarist critique can be over-done: as noted earlier, spatial science estab­ lished a reified image of people uniformly deciding to act in some particular way; some humanistic geographers implied that there were essential reasons for people attitudes and behaviour; while behavioural geographers considered decisions as always being bounded, particularly by the limitations of people’s perceptions.

Contested Worlds


Table 2.1: Notions of structure Concept of structure




Structure is viewed as discernible order within series of observation

Radcliffe-Bown (1952); Rumley (1979)


Structure viewed as the support for the empirical, often using a skeletal analogy. I.e. structures are not observable but give the visible its form

Levi-Strauss (1973), Harvey (1973)


Structure viewed as set of relations between elements

Saussure (1966), Sayer (1992)


Structure viewed as an external Althusser and Balibar feature, or rule, which restricts (1970), Castells (1977). what people may do

Resource and rule

Structure viewed as enabling as well as constraining features, bound up in the production and reproduction of everyday life and society

Structuration theory of Giddens (1979; 1981; 1984; 1985) and Gregory (1982a)

Having said this, the exercise of choice was a central feature of these approaches, albeit often tempered, and even contradicted, by other theoretical principles. Many Marxists and structuralists were adamant that human choice was of extremely limited significance being always bounded, not only by perceptions but also by broader social processes and relations of power. This argument was strongly articulated within human geography with reference to studies of urban housing. As discussed earlier, spatial scientists had expended consid­ erable effort in developing universalised theories and models of spatial differences in urban housing and much of the behavioural critique of this approach centred on an examination of decision making relating to the selection of a place of residence (see Knox 1987; Walmsley and Lewis 1993). In the 1970s, this focus itself became subject to criticism, with people such as Gray (1975; 1979), Pahl (1969; 1970) and Williams (1976) arguing that decisions about where to live were always undertaken within an already determined set of options, such as an established range of housing stock with a more or less already present residential population, and within a series of constraints, such as finance and the space-time locations of work and consumption. As outlined in Chapter 10, such arguments led: first, to the formulation of urban managerialism which focused on how agencies such as building societies, banks and local authorities acted as so-called ‘urban managers’ or ‘gatekeepers’ to control

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access to the resources of urban space; and second to the widespread adoption of concepts derived from Marxist political-economy. As also discussed in Chapter 10, Marxist geographers were not only highly critical of the voluntarism of spatial science, behavioural ism and humanistic geography, but were also critical of two other aspects of their ontologies. First, as has already been discussed in connection with the politicisation of epistemology, notions of universal laws - and one might equally add, transcendental relations - give no room for the possibilities of future change, and also often ignore the extent to which the present situation did not exist in the past. They in effect ‘naturalise’ the present, or their analy­ sis of the present, by giving it the appearance of being universal and unchangeable. This point has been well made by Cater and Jones (1989) who suggest that the ‘human ecological theory’ advanced by people such as Burgess (1924; 1925) and Park (1936) and adopted widely within geography as spatial science, was effectively an ‘unanswerable justification of the status quo’ in that it adopted the view that there was ‘a natural desire’ amongst people to acquire as much living space as possible and given this desire and the physical limitation of space, there was ‘inevitably’ a process of competition in which - and here there were strong parallels being forged to Darwinian style theories of evolution (but see also Livingstone 1992) - the powerful would win out at the expense of the weaker. As Cater and Jones note, the implication of Burgess’ theory was effectively that: residential segregation, housing inequality, slums and homelessness are inevitable facets of the human condition, programmed into our very genes. All attempts to impose change whether by reform or revolution, are mere futile tilting at the unalterable laws of the universe. ‘What exists exists because it must exist’ (Cater and Jones 1989: 47).

Some forms of structuralism may be equally subject to charges of naturalism. Gregory (1978), for example, argues that Levi-Strauss’ structuralism constructs human history as the meshing, unmeshing and remeshing of a series of essentially invariant structures. There is change, but only between one structured combination and another, with history becoming little more that working through all these combi­ nations, and at times repeating old combinations. Marxism - which here is taken to designate works which show ‘an indeptedness to Marx and Engles and /or later inter­ pretations of Marx’s work’ (Castree 1994) - although often equated with structural­ ism has had a strong, although by no means always commanding, historicist streak to it. As geographers like Harvey (1984) have emphasised, Marxism has been described as historical materialism and had as one of its central propositions that human soci­ eties are ‘historical’ rather than ‘universal’ creations. A third area of Marxist critique of spatial science, behavioural geography and humanistic geography was on the emphasis given to individual human agency. In contrast to the ‘atomistic ontologies’ of spatial science, behavioural geography and humanistic geography, both Marxist and structuralist tended to favour more rela­ tional and holistic ontologies. Indeed it was commonalities in this area that led people such as Harvey (1973) to suggest that these approaches could be married together. Harvey, for example, argued that Marx might be seen to be a form of ‘operational structuralist’ akin to that advanced by the psychologist Piaget. Within a relational ontology things get meaning, function or causal powers (and these terms have varied


Contested Worlds

between various forms of structuralism) in relation to other features, features which constitute the ‘elements of a structure’. So, for example, the linguistic structuralism of Saussure (1966) argued that the meaning of a word derives from its relationships with other words and meanings; in the functional structuralism of Talcott Parsons (1951) social agents act in a manner which enables the continued performance of particular social functions; while in the ‘realism’ of Sayer (1992) landlords get causal powers by virtue of their relationships through the ownership of property vis-a-vis their tenants. Furthermore, within many forms of structuralism the focus is on rela­ tions at the expense of particular elements. Hence, Fortes (1949: 56 ) claims, ‘when we describe structure ... we are, as it were, in the realm of grammar and syntax, not of the spoken word’, while Piaget (1970:9 ) argued that ‘operational structuralism ... adopts from the start a relational perspective, according to which it is neither the elements nor a whole that comes about ... but the relations among elements that count’. Piaget explicitly distanced his structuralism from both atomistic understandings and also from a holism in which some ‘supra-individual’ outcome, or social ‘totality’, acts both autonomously from its constituent elements and to determine the actions of these elements. However, Duncan and Ley (1982), amongst others, have claimed that structuralist explanations often adopt this viewpoint. They argue, for instance, that the writings of Marxists geographers such as Harvey (1973), Castells (1977) and Santos (1977) often posited capitalism, or the capitalist mode of production, as a totality which determined how people, agencies and institutions behave. Duncan and Ley’s (1982) critique of the holism of work that they identified as constitutive of an emergent ‘structural Marxism’ can be criticised for ignoring the extent to which both proponents of structuralism such as Piaget and also Marxist geographers such as Harvey explicitly rejected such a holism. Their identification and critique of structural Marxism, conjoined with others within and outside of geogra­ phy (e.g. Giddens 1981; Gregory 1978; 1982a; Hindess and Hirst 1977; Ley 1982; Thompson 1978), did, however, very much set the agenda for much of the ontological discussions in human geography over the course of the following decade. Not only was Marxism, as already mentioned, frequently conjoined with structuralism, but both were almost as frequently charged with neglecting ‘human agency’, and in particular the differences that an individual person might make to their own circum­ stances. Furthermore, a series of attempts were made to bridge the gap between struc­ tural (/)Marxist explanations and the more human agency centred explanations of behavioural and humanistic geographies. Among the philosophies proposed as part of this ‘search for a common ground’ (Gould and Olsson 1982) were ‘structuration theory’, ‘realism’ and ‘regulation theory’, brief descriptions of which are provided in Boxes 2.7 to 2.9.

Box 2.7: Gidden’s structuration theory Structuration is a term which is very much associated with the work of one person, the sociologist Anthony Giddens. In a series of books in the late 1970s and first half of the 1980s (e.g. Giddens 1979; 1981; 1984; 1985) Giddens

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identified the relationship between agency and structure as being the central problem of social theory, and claimed that this relationship had become so problematic because the relationship had been viewed as a dualism rather than as a duality. The former term implies two categorically different phenomena, whilst the latter term implies two differentiated but related terms. Structuration was an attempt to bring structure and agency together as a duality, whereby actions were seen to be conditioned by and at the same time reproduce social structures, and, conversely, where social structures were seen to be the condition and outcome of social action. To achieve this integration Giddens proposed that structures need to be conceptualised as rules and resources which both constrained and also enabled actions, while actions conceptualised as having a recursiveness whereby their consequences consti­ tuted the conditions of future action. Giddens further proposed that actions and their consequences could be stratified between those about which people had some consciousness or practical awareness (rationalised and reflectively moni­ tored actions and systemically predictable outcomes) and those about which people had little awareness (unconscious conditions of action and unexpected consequences of actions).

Box 2.8: Realism In its broadest sense, the term realism relates to notions that there is some reality which exists independently of people senses, perceptions and interpreta­ tions (Cloke et al. 1991: 132). Such a view is often contrasted to notions of ‘idealism’, when that term is taken to imply to imply that reality is constituted through what people think exists (see Box 2.5), and is also term which could quite reasonably be applied to describe a range of other philosophical positions including empiricism and positivism. However, within contemporary human geography and many associated social sciences, the term realism has come to refer to rather more specific philosophical arguments, many of which actively critique notions of positivism and empiricism. The precise constellation of arguments and choice of terminology to characterise them has been subject of some discussion, but broadly one can suggest that terms such as transcendental realism (Bhaskar 1978), scientific realism (Bhaskar 1986) and critical realism (Pratt 1995; Yeung 1997) have been used to differentiate more specific, and anti-positivist and anti-empiricist, philosophical positions from the more general sense of realism as defined above. A variety of terms have also been coined to describe the general sense of realism and to differentiate it from the more specific variants: hence one has naive realism (Gibson 1981) and empiri­ cal realism (Bhaskar 1978). A key element of the more specific, non-positivist and non-empiricist forms of realism has been a rejection of the empiricist epistemology whereby knowl­ edge of the real is seen to created solely by that which can be sensed (see Box



Contested Worlds 2.2). By contrast realists such as Bhaskar (1986) argued that some of the most significant aspects of reality cannot be sensed. Bhaskar suggested that there were three domains o f reality: the empirical, which consists of people’s sensed experiences; the actual which includes events which generate particular experi­ ences; and the real which encompasses structures and mechanisms which generate events. These three domains connect but only partially and only in one direction, namely from the real to the actual, and from the actual to the experi­ ential. As a result, so Bhaskar argues, experience cannot be used to access all the real, although the real can be used to interpret the experiential. This notion of reality and the role of people’s senses in creating knowledge of that reality clearly distinguishing this form of realism from empiricism and positivism. It does, however, raise the question of how is knowledge to be created if it is not through correspondence of thought and experience. In developing answers to such questions realists have often made reference to notions of 4abstraction’, or ‘thought experiments’ (Foord and Gregson 1986), and ‘practical adequacy’ (Sayer 1992). Abstraction involves the identification in thought of the significant constituents of a situation or process, and according to Sayer (1992: 88) ‘should distinguish the incidental from essential characteristics ... [and] neither divide the indivisible nor lump together the divisible and the heteroge­ nous’. Sayer goes on to distinguish between rational abstractions, which are seen to have the characters just listed, and chaotic conceptions which ‘arbritarily divides the indivisible and/or lumps together the unrelated and inessential’ (Sayer 1992). The former problem, the division of the indivisible, is seen to stem in part from the widespread adoption of atomistic ontologies (see section on empiricism) and an associated failure to distinguish between external/contingent relations and internal/necessary relations. The first rela­ tionship refers to those established between things which are constituted inde­ pendently from each other, although possibly affecting each other. The latter refers to relationships between things which actively constitutes the things involved in the relationship such that these things could not exist as they are outside of the relationship. So, for instance, a person cannot be a tenant without their also being a landlord, and if there is no landlord and no payment of rent then it is meaningless to talk of someone as being a tenant. The problem of lumping together the unrelated and inessential relates to the above discussion of internal/external relations. It also very much relates to a second set of distinctions introduced by realists such as Sayer, namely a distinc­ tion between the abstract and the concrete. The former refers to very selective abstractions, namely those which ‘isolate in thought a one sided or partial aspect of an object’ (Sayer 1992: 87). The concrete on the other hand refers to ‘a combi­ nation of diverse elements or forces’ (p. 87). A concrete abstraction is hence constituted out of combining a series of abstract abstractions. Realism in its more specific forms sets up a series of terminological distinc­ tions and claims about how we should best theorise reality. However an

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography outstanding issue is how does one judge the value of particular theorisations or ‘thought experiments’. It is to address this issue that realists such as Sayer have introduced the notion of ‘practical adequacy’, which suggests that we accept theories as having some potential validity if they ‘generate expectation about the world and about the results of our actions which are actually realized’ (Sayer 1985: 69). This notion would seem to bear parallels with the focus on practice which is characteristic of pragmaticism (see Box 2.8), although Sayer does not really expand on his notion of practical adequacy as much as might have been expected given its centrality to his construction of a realist episte­ mology. The discussion of realism has focused so far primarily on epistemological issues, an emphasis which reflects Cloke et al.9s (1991: 95) contention that epistemological issues have predominated in the formulation of realism. It should, however, already be clear that ontological issues were quite central to the formulation of the realist epistemology: witness the distinctions between the empirical, the actual and the real and between atomistic contingent relations and internal/necessary relationships. Frequent mention is made by realists to notions of ontological depth (e.g. Bhaskar 1979), which means that reality is composed of a range of different entities which cannot be explained simply by recourse to some other set of entities. Often this is described in terms of a layers o f reality, each of which is seen to have its own emergent powers. This notion of ontological depth had two particular resonances within geog­ raphy. First, it may be seen to provide a framework for linking human and phys­ ical geography without reducing one down to the other (Richards 1990; 1994; Unwin 1992). Second, it provided a warrant for a new structuralist ontology whereby the layers of reality were widely seen to consist of events, mechanism and structures, with the last of these being widely construed as being simulta­ neously both the empirically most inaccessible and the causally most signifi­ cant (see for example Sayer 1992).

Box 2.9: Regulation theory Regulation theory is a variant of Marxist political economy which argues that capitalism is unable to secure the conditions of its own reproduction through time because of the contradictions built into its very construction. Classical Marxist political economy also took this view, suggesting that capitalism would dissolve under the strain of its own contradictions. However, there has been little evidence to suggest that capitalist social relations are declining in their influence; indeed more and more areas of the world and more and more aspects of social life are arguably coming under their sway. The failure of capi­ talism to collapse has long been used to signal the failure of Marxist theory, but in the 1970s a number of French theorists such as Aglietta (1979) and Lipietz (1985; 1987) claimed that the failure of capitalism to collapse did not mean that Marxist political-economy was wrong in its assessment of capitalism as being



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inherently contradictory and crisis ridden. Rather what Marxism had failed to account for in its theorisations was the way that these contradictions and crises were being managed or ‘regulated’. A variety of mechanisms of regulation have been proposed. Aglietta (1979), for example, argued that the Marxist concept of a mode o f production needed to be supplemented with the notion of a regime o f accumulation which relates to mechanisms ordering the circulation and consumption of commodities, the distribution of income and investment and the social organisation of production (see Dunford 1990). For capitalist accumulation of profits to continue without crises, the regime of accumulation has to be in balance with the mode of production; if not there can be crises such as over-production and a surplus of commodities; or surplus, un-invested, capital and surplus labour power, leading to unemployment (see Harvey 1982). Aglietta suggested that one long success­ ful regime of accumulation was Fordism where a mode of mass production was combined with mass consumption sustained by standardised and relatively high wage levels, Keynsian economic policies to ensure high levels of employ­ ment and collective consumption through a welfare state. However, in the 1970s and 1980s this regime of accumulation was seen to be in crisis and a new post-fordist regime of accumulation seen to be emerging, although there has been considerable debate as to whether this has actually been achieved and what its form(s) might take (see Peck and Tickell 1994; Tickell and Peck 1995). The concept of regime of accumulation focused on the economic dilemmas of capitalist accumulation and their regulation. The contradictions and prob­ lems of capitalism are not, however, exclusively economic in character, and some theorists have suggested that social, political and cultural life is as much the subject of regulation as are economic relations. In this context the notion of a mode o f social regulation, or MSR as it is widely abbreviated to, has been proposed as a supplement to the notions of mode of production and regimes of accumulation (see Cloke and Goodwin 1992; Dunford 1990; Jessop 1990; Peck and Tickell 1992). The mode of social regulation is seen to refer to processes of ‘societalization’ (Jessop 1990: 179) whereby disparate sets of practices become bound together in such a way that the regime of accumulation comes to func­ tion and any problems regulated. The mode of social regulation is seen to encompass institutions of formal governance, or ‘real regulation’ (Clark 1992), plus a range of less institutionalised, habitualised practices, such as consuming certain products, working in particular ways, engaging in certain forms of poli­ tics (and refraining from others). Such practices may constitute many of the relations critical to particular regimes of accumulation and thereby to the repro­ duction of capitalist production, although such consequences may be far from the mind of those engaged in these practices. There are clear connections which could be drawn here to structuration theory’s notion of structures as the unin­ tended consequence of action (see Box 2.9), although there has been a tendency within regulation theory to see modes of social regulations simply as a mecha­ nism for regulating problems constituted within capitalist production and

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regimes of accumulation, rather than actively constitutive of economic struc­ tures. This tendency arguably still persists despite explicit claims from some advocates of regulation theory that the concept of mode of social regulation should be ‘afforded equal analytical value’ (Peck and Tickell 1992: 349) to economic centred concepts such as ‘regimes of accumulation’, ‘accumulation systems’ and ‘modes of production’.

These philosophies stimulated a whole series of writing and debates in human geog­ raphy in the 1980s and 1990s. However, despite important differences between them and previous philosophies, and indeed between themselves, they can be seen to have revolved around a common ontological concern with finding some way of combining structure with agency. They also all shared some, more or less explicit and more or less substantive, connection to the work of Marx. Overall, Gregory’s (1994: 102) phrase ‘middling Marxisms’ might be an appropriate term with which to characterise them. As other chapters in the book clearly demonstrate, the furrows of the structure/agency debate are still routinely ploughed by human geographers, often drawing on one or other of these approaches. However, in the 1990s a raft of new concerns drifted into human geography, concerns which seemed to blow away much of the ground for a common search centred around structure and agency. These new concerns were associated with a variety of what might be described as ‘post-philoso­ phies’.

The Arrival of the ‘Post-philosophies’ The search for some common or middle ground characteristic of much philosophical musing in the 1980s came to be disrupted almost as soon as it had begun by the trans­ portation into geography of a range of philosophies and theories which frequently contained a ‘post-’ epithet: hence one had ‘postmodernism’, ‘poststructuralism’, ‘postcolonialism’, ‘post-Marxism’, ‘post-feminism’, ‘post-developmentalism’, to mention but a few of the most prominent. These philosophies raised a series of new claims and set off a series on new debates, not least over what these terms meant: The participants in the discussion seem to agree on one thing; that there is the greatest possible disagreement as to what postmodernism is ... It resists comprehensive definition and appears, at the same time, to accept the content so arbitrarily that some commentators are deluded into regarding this arbitrariness itself as an essential characteristic of postmod­ ernism (Voss and Schiitze 1989: 119; see also Chapter 3).

There has also been discussion of the relationship between these various terms. Rosenau (1992), for example, argues that the terms postmodernism and poststruc­ turalism ‘overlap considerably’ and that ‘[f|ew efforts have been made to distinguish between the two, probably because the difference appears of little consequence’. Peet (1998), on the other hand, makes much of the difference between postmodernism and poststructuralism, although personally I associate much of what he designates as

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being postmodernism with poststructuralism, and vice versa. A third position can be discerned within the work of Gregory (1994) who whilst arguing that he does ‘not think that postmodernism, poststructuralism and postcolonialism can be folded ... directly and indiscriminately into one another’ (p. 182), nevertheless does chart some ‘complex braiding of intellectual currents’ (p. 134) between them. This third position is broadly the approach adopted here, although emphasis is placed on delimiting some lines of difference which may lie between postmodernism and post-structural­ ism, in at least some of their expositions.

Postmodernist Geographies As the quote from Voss and Schiitze indicates, there has been considerable contesta­ tion about what the term postmodernism might be, and indeed contestation about the value of even attempting to define it. However, Cloke et al. (1991) have suggested that the term postmodernism is often used in two particular ways. First, to designate an ‘object of study’: that is people study some postmodern object. Within geography a variety of ‘postmodern objects’ have been identified, including: postmodern build­ ings (Jameson, 1991; also Chapter 10) and postmodern cities (Dear, 2000; Soja, 1995, 1996, 2000; Watson and Gibson, 1995; also Chapter 9); postmodern cultures (Harvey 1989; Jameson 1991); postmodern (or as it is often also described, ‘postfordist’) economies (Harvey 1989; McDowell 1991b); ‘post modem societies’ and, more generally, of living in a condition of postmodernity (Harvey 1989). Two features tie these postmodern objects together. First, they are seen in some sense or another to be new objects which can be contrasted with something that went before and which was designated as modern. The ‘post-’ epitaph in part therefore encompassed notions of temporal change: it is, in part, ‘a periodizing concept’ (Jameson (1985: 113); see also Phillips (1998b)). Second, these new objects have been seen to be highly complex and fluid, in contrast to what went before which is seen to have simple outlines and be largely static in form. In postmodern culture, for example, identities are seen to be complex and fluid, features which have been frequently illustrated with reference to pop-stars. Cloke et al. (1991) for example, quote O’Hagan’s (1990) claim that the pop-star ‘Prince’ was the first ‘postmodern pop icon’ in that at times he appeared to resemble Jimi Hendrix, at other times James Brown or Little Richard. Since then Prince has even sought to reinvent his own iden­ tity, moving from titling himself as ‘Prince’ to ‘The Artist, formerly known as Prince’. Another pop-star frequently associated with post-modernism is Madonna (Fiske 1992; Kaplan 1988; 1992). Like Prince, Madonna is a pseudonym and like Prince, Madonna has projected a whole series of identities for herself, many of which bring together images generally separate or reversing their established rela­ tionships: Her video of ‘Like a Virgin’ alternates the white dress of Madonna the bride with the black slinky garb of Madonna the singer; the name of Madonna the virgin mother is borne by a sexually active female; the crucifixes adopted from nuns’ habits are worn on a barely concealed bosom or in a sexually gyrating navel ... In the video ‘Material Girl’, Madonna goes through a dance routine with tuxedo-clad young men in a parody of [Marilyn]

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


Monroe’s number ‘Diamonds are a girls best friend’ from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. During the number she collects jewellery from men ... But despite a whore like gathering of riches from men ... she toys with the men, showing that their jewellery has bought them no power over her (Fiske 1992: 309- 310).

The mixing of identities can be seen as a feature of more everyday lives with, for example, people often dressing in different ways in different situations and indeed taking on board different identities in different situations. Urry (1995), for example, has suggested that contemporary leisure and recreation pursuits, and also contempo­ rary political actions, may be constitutive of postmodern practices of identity forma­ tion whereby people elect to ‘temporarily adopt new identities’, such that: The quite librarian during the week may engage in war games at the weekend, while the staunch Conservative voter and believer in the rule of law might take to chaining them­ selves to trees about to be felled to make way for a road by pass (Phillips, 1998b: 45).

Furthermore, when participating in these activities people may well find themselves joined by all manner of other, quite different people. As a result there is blurring of commonly held links between personal and political identities and social positionings such as class or social status. Complexity and fluidity are also evident within economies - with, for instance, the rise of ‘flexible’ and ‘just-in time’ production, and niche and fashion products - and in the physical landscape of cities, where, for instance, large rectangular buildings and street layouts have been replaced in many areas with multi-level buildings which incorporate a mix or pastiche of styles and where land-use is mixed and the street layout complex (see Chapters 9 and 10). The second way in which the term postmodernism has been used identified by Cloke et al.{ 1991) is as attitude or approach. ‘Postmodernism as attitude’ shares with ‘postmodernism as object’ an emphasis on complexity and fluidity but applies it to the conduct of finding out about the world as well as to the character of that world. It also incorporates some elements of temporality, although the degree to which it signals a break from modem approaches has been the subject of some debate (see Berg 1993; Curry 1991; Harvey 1989; 1992). For some human geographers postmod­ ernism reflects a new philosophy for doing geography, incorporating both distinc­ tively different ontological and epistemological concerns. Postmodern Ontologies According to Holt-Jensen (1999: 134) postmodernism relates primarily to ‘factual changes in our societies, and reactions to those changes’. Dear (2000: 317) also claims that ‘[postmodernism is best understood as an ontological slant’. However, these statements are far from straightforward and indeed may be seen as rather prob­ lematic given that, as will be discussed in the next section, postmodernists have raised a series of epistemological challenges to what they see as modernist theories. Indeed, Dear himself has argued that two geographers closely associated with postmod­ ernism, namely Ed Soja and David Harvey, may have failed to appreciate many of its epistemological challenges (see Box 9.3).


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However, for the moment, the emphasis will remain on ontological issues. Connecting ideas of complexity and fluidity identified in various postmodern objects to the research process, postmodernism as attitude can be seen to have come to stress at least two lines of ontological arguments. First, it has been argued that people should be ‘incredulous toward metanarratives’ (Lyotard 1984: xxiv) or be ‘inherently suspicious of ... “grand theories’” (Cloke et a l 1991: 171). Meta-narratives can be seen as ‘big stories’ which serve to organise phenomena or events into some seem­ ingly meaningful order or pattern. They may be seen as ‘total histories’ or ‘grand historical visions’, to use phrases from Philo’s (1992a) discussion of the work of Foucault, which draw phenomena up round a central plot; ‘a principle, a meaning, a spirit, a world-view, an overall shape’ (Foucault 1972: 10). As well as being central elements within many historical ontologies, such narratives may, as will discussed in the next section, be important epistemologically. In his book The Postmodern Condition Lyotard (1984), for example, argues that while scientists often employ a scientistic self-understandings which see science as an autonomous activity best carried out in isolation from social, moral and political influences and contestations, in practice science can never validate itself simply by reference to its own procedures. Instead, Lyotard argues, science relies on ‘metanarratives’, such as the conduct of science is linked to the achievement of ‘human emancipation’ and/or the ‘realisation of the human spirit’ (Lyotard 1984: xxiii). The term ‘grand-theory’ is more clearly ontological and does not have the tempo­ ral connotations arguably associated with the notion of narrative. The phrase has been traced back to Mills (1959; see Barnes and Gregory 1997) and can be said to involve claims to have understood how the world operates which centre around one or two concepts which are seen to provide the key to understanding because they correspond to some central phenomena or processes around which the world is seen to operate. This argument is clearly stated by Foucault in a series of texts which Philo (1992a: 140) argues can be interpreted as ‘flagging (although in no sense exhausting the possibilities of) a “truly” postmodern geography’. So, for instance, Foucault (1972: 9) highlights how interpretations often proceed by seeking to demonstrate how a series or collection of events ‘express one and the same central core’. By contrast, Philo (1992a) argues that Foucault seeks to establish a non-hierarchical ontology whereby ‘certain things are [not] presented as somehow being more significant than the other things’ (p. 145) and there is ‘an expectation that probably there is no deeper essence, truth or whatever to be spoken about beyond the ... “isness” of things in the world’ (p. 147). Dear (2000) has argued that postmodernism ‘holds out for a philo­ sophical culture free from the search for ultimate foundations of everything’, while Foucault (1982: 18) wrote: ‘nothing is fundamental; that is what is interesting about society’. Similar notions of a non-hierarchical ontology also figure highly within the actor-network theory of Latour and others (see Box 2.10).

Box 2.10: Actor-network theory Actor-network theory, or ANT as it is commonly known, is a philosophical approach which has emerged into geography in the mid 1990s out of work

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography

initially focused on the sociologies of science and technology, much of which were produced by people ‘associated with, and in many cases located at, the Centre de Sociologie de lTnnovation of the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Mines de Paris’ (Law 1992: 379). The theory focuses on agency but in a manner which is quite different from many previous approaches. In particular it seeks to explain how agency - or the power to do things - comes about, and suggests that agency is an effect produced by networks of heterogenously associated entities (or actants as they are often called) which encompass both the human and the inhuman. Law provides an illustration of this argument which draws quite directly of actor-networks initial origins in the sociology of science: ‘Knowledge’ ... is the end product of a lot of hard work in which lots of heteroge­ nous bits and pieces - test tubes, reagents, organisms, skilled hands, scanning electron microscopes, other scientists, articles, computer terminals, and all the rest - ... are juxtaposed into a patterned network ... and ... concerted (or ‘trans­ lated’) into a set o f ... scientific products (Law 1992: 381).

Law adds that actor-network theorists extended their arguments about the production of knowledge to suggest that ‘agents, social institutions, machines and organization’ could all be ‘seen as a product or an effect of a network of heterogenous materials’ (Law 1992: 381). Actor network theorists have sought a fla t ontology which whilst recognising a multitudinous range of entities in the world rejected privileging any of these over others by being described as being causal (cf. Box 2.8): rather actor-network theorists ‘insist on symmetry’, assert­ ing that ‘everything deserves explanation’ and that everything should be ‘approached in the same way’ (Law 1994: 9-10). One illustration of the implication of such arguments is provided by Murdoch who draws on actor-network theory to suggest that whilst previous approaches to understanding changing economic forms have often made use of ‘explanatory concepts’ like modes of production and social regulation, social structures and classes, these entities should be ‘treated not as causes of events but as a set of effects arising from a whole complex network of relations’ (Murdoch 1995a: 747; Murdoch 1995b; and Phillips 1998a, for a critique). As Whatmore (1999) comments, there are two important implications of actor-network theory’s concept of agency. First it ‘decentres’ agency, in that agency is seen to a product of a dispersed collection of actants rather than a property held within some clearly identified social location, such as the human person or some social organization or institutions. In this decentreing, actor-network theory can be seen to intersect with post-structuralist argu­ ments (see text). On the other hand, the second aspect of actor-network theory identified by W hatmore, namely its break with ‘the logocentric presumption that agency is an exclusively human attribute’ (Whatmore 1999: 30) stands in some tension with a post-structuralist emphasis on ‘social construction’ and on ‘discourse’.



Contested Worlds

Philo (1992a: 149) argues that Foucault’s non-hierarchical ontology does not mean ‘that all there is in the world is chaos’, but rather that there is ‘some order’ (emphasis added) and that such order as there is ‘lies resolutely in the things themselves and not in any theoretical order imposed from without’ (Philo 1992a: 149). Likewise, within actor-network theory it has been argued that the focus should not be on order but on modes of ordering. For Philo the focus of a postmodern geography should be on ‘the “local changing rules” that in particular times and places govern, and in a sense simply are, the observable relationships between the many things under study’ (Philo 1992a: 150). Such a claim might be interpreted as a call to revert to a philosophy of empiricism, but Philo is quick to add that observation should not, and indeed cannot, proceed without some influence from apriori expectations and imaginings. Elsewhere, Philo has argued for movement by geographers beyond observable materialities and toward recognition of a whole range of intangible and often barely discernible ‘events, enti­ ties and structures’ (Philo 1994a: 260; Philo 1991; see also Phillips 1998b). Philo argues for greater attention to be paid to the messiness and disorderly character of much of social life: to recognise, as Gregory (1989: 69) has put it, that much of social theory is ‘totalising’ in that it over-emphasises the coherence of social life, explicitly or implicitly assuming that ‘social life somehow adds up to (or “makes sense in terms o f ’) a coherent system with its own superordinate logic’. As Cloke et al. comment: Most of us have been educated in one way or another to suppose that the world has funda­ mental order to it .... Natural scientists ... believe that the natural world ‘obeys’ certain laws (those of Newtonian mechanics, those of Darwinian selection [for example])... social scientists have by an large taken on board a ... notion of order existing ‘out there’ in the ‘real’ world and have hence embarked on quest after quest for the ‘true order’ of the human world ... [T]his is the case whether we are thinking about approaches informed by ‘Marxist science’ or ‘historical materialism’ ..., by humanistic philosophies such as ‘phenomenol­ ogy’ ... or by other ‘grand theories’ of the human world (Cloke et al. 1991: 186-7).

Many of the approaches to human geography previously discussed, often with an emphasis being placed on differences in their ontologies, can be seen to have posited some orderly focus to the social world and to have sought to develop some theorisa­ tion of the production of this order. By contrast, postmoderists seek to develop ‘local ontologies’ which are well attuned to specific situations: to the ‘jumbling together’ of ‘substance-ridden things’ in particular ‘worldly spaces’ (Philo 1992a: 157). Such local ontologies connect closely to the practices of description, so quickly dismissed by both spatial science and structuralism. Both Gregory (1989) and Philo (1992a) connect postmodernism with the notion of ‘thick description’ outlined by the anthropologist Geertz (1973), whereby a single event may be situated in a series of ‘layers of meaning’ and hence can be researched and described in a series of different ways. Thick description is contrasted with thin description whereby only limited data is collected and used to characterise a situation, albeit often from a large number of cases. Such thin description can be seen to be a frequent creation of social surveys using standardised questions, while ethnographic methods of data generation long employed by anthropologists may be seen as productive of thicker descriptions. For Geertz (1973: 27) the aim of thick description was to ‘draw large

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


conclusions from small, but very textured facts’ and to make ‘broad assertions about the role of culture’ (p. 144). These aspirations might be seen as quite modernist, but later Geertz argued that ethnographers needed to respect ‘local knowledges’ and not simply evaluate other cultures according to the values inscribed in western cultures (Geertz 1983). All knowledge was seen to be affected by the local conditions of its production, and hence rather than talking of knowledge in the singular there was a need to recognise a plurality of knowledges, each with its own geographical and historical specificity. Not only did Geertz’s later works chime with the local ontology espoused by some postmodernists, but his notions of thick description and ethnography began to figure frequently in discussion of qualitative methods which were themselves becoming much more prominent within human geography in the 1980s. Indeed qualitative methods began to be widely seen as part and parcel of a postmodernist approach to geography, just as quantitative methods had become widely commonly equated with positivist philosophies. A second ontological concern of postmodernism closely associated with its concern to avoid grand theory is a concern with difference, or as Cloke et al. ( 1991: 171) put it, ‘an alertness to the many differences that distinguish one person or event or process or whatever from another, and an insistence on not obliterating these vital differences in the face of grand theoretical statements’. In part this means that rather than looking for similarities between events or process and developing explanations centred around these similarities, postmodernists favour focusing in on what way something is different from something else. Cloke et al. (1991) comment that the ‘alertness to difference has many conse­ quences’, with one of the most obvious, and arguably most reactionary, being to equate sensitivity to differences as simply a return to the ‘idiographic’ and to ‘empir­ ical studies’ (e.g. Tumock 1999). While Gregory (1989) and Cloke et al. (1991) have indeed made connections back to notions like ‘aerial differentiation’ and the study of the unique places, they have also been adamant about the impossibility of theoryless observation. Furthermore, the study of difference does not simply equate with the study of the unique: as outlined in the review of Philo’s arguments about Foucault’s geography, the study of difference both recognises the possibilities of commonalities between situations (and hence may be seen as less than idiographic), whilst at the same time recognises the possibilities of order and disorder (the latter possibility was not recognised in the idiographic, hence the study of difference is more than the idio­ graphic). Finally, it should be stressed that postmodernism emerged from outside of geography and hence has, not unexpectedly, sought to recognise differences other than the purely spatial or place specific. Indeed Cloke et al. suggest that amongst the most prominent differences identified by postmodernism are those between people: alertness to difference ... forces us to respect the myriad variations that exist between the many ‘sorts’ of human being studied by geographers - the variations between women and men, between social classes, between ethnic groups, between human groups defined on all manner of criteria (Cloke et al. 1991: 171).

Cloke et al. argue that much research of human geography has been rather insensitive to such differences, tending, as one of the authors later put it, to portray people as:


Contested Worlds ‘Mr Averages’: as being men in employment, earning enough to live, white and probably English, straight and somehow without sexuality, able in body and sound in mind, and devoid of any quirks of (say religious belief or political affiliation) (Philo 1992b: 200)

People have been, in Philo’s view, too often reduced to the same: being portrayed as very similar to each other and, crucially, essentially mirroring the people who, in the main, study them. Hence, he argues, many of those people writing geography were ‘white, middle-class, middle aged, able-bodied, sound-minded, heterosexual men’ (Philo 1992b: 199). Very similar claims have also made by feminist geographers with Rose (1993a), for instance, arguing that geography has been dominated by a masculinist gaze which claims to be universal but is in practice very partial because it views the world from the perspective of ‘hegemonically masculine men’, either assuming that other people view the world just as the powerful, heterosexual male does (and hence are ‘the same’), or else that they are radically different and less significant (and are hence an other). Instances of these two practices have already been mentioned with regard to humanistic geography which, on the one hand, often constructed the home as a place of rest, recreation and re-creation, and on the other, set up aesthetic notions such as emotions, feelings and sensitivity as being beyond the limits of scientific reason. For the humanistic geographer, one could not ‘explain’ such enti­ ties as place, nature and landscape but only seek, at best, to partially understand their mysteries and attractions, a construct of otherness which Rose argues paralleled and drew upon those made about women within wider discourses of hegemonic masculinity in which women were viewed as being ‘other’ than men in being more emotional or more sensitive, and at the same time less rational and less understand­ able than men. The privileging of sameness and the neglect of difference is not simply the outcome of personal biases, although these have no doubt played some part, but also connects to some long-established conceptual distinctions and restrictions routinely employed by human geographers. McDowell (1989: 138), for example, argued that the long neglect of gender by geographers was ‘partly a question of scale’ with geog­ raphers usually omitting ‘the small-scale and the “private” from consideration’ in favour of studying ‘patterns and processes that take place outside, or in the “public” world of institutions, places, areas and regions’. Geographers, she argued, tended to ‘not go inside the factory gates or the office doors with the workers’ but to ‘stop at the front door and ignore questions about the division of responsibility for work within the home or the structure of power relations within households’. She added that if geographers did go into ‘interior worlds’ of factories, offices and homes, then gender differences became much harder to ignore, and indeed might well be a central focus of attention (see McDowell 1995a; 1997a; 1997b). Many other long established divisions and restrictions have come to be questioned through human geography’s engagement with postmodernism, and indeed with feminism (see Box 2.11), with a range of new geographies emerging beyond some previously estab­ lished boundaries of the subject.

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography

Box 2.11: Feminist geography Feminist geography can be seen as a clear illustration of the ‘politicisation of epistemology’ and the emergence of a ‘radical geography’. An explicit feminist geography emerged in the mid 1970s as a series of women sought to bring into their geographies some of the political concerns which had for sometime been articulated in a much wider feminist social movement. Feminist geography can be seen as a ‘radical’ or ‘critical’ discourse which seeks to change things not simply study them. In particular feminist geography seeks to critique ‘women’s oppression in society ... [and] the various ways that this is reproduced in geographical theory ... within geographical institutions’ and within the various practices of geographers such as teaching, research and publication (Pratt 2000: 259). As Rose (1993b: 535) comments, whilst feminist geography has often been ignored or marginalised in discussions of geography, it very much lies ‘at the heart of debates about this thing called geography’. Feminist geographers have, for example, played major roles in, amongst other things: i) the critique of ‘objectivism’ and the highlighting of the situatedness of theory; ii) the promo­ tion of heightened reflexivity in methodology; and iii) challenging the value of major theoretical dualisms, such as culture/nature, work/home and public/private. The range of impacts across ontological and epistemological issues, and across theory and practice, highlights how feminist geography might be seen as a major philosophical approach of equal, if not greater signif­ icance than, say, humanism, Marxism, structuralism or post-structuralism. However, after considerable thought and still a fair degree of unease, it has been decided not to add a section on feminism to the main body of text but to discuss it in this box section. The decision was taken because, despite its undoubted significance and distinctive elements, feminist geography and feminism more widely has exhibited a ‘proliferation’ of forms which pose all sorts of ‘awkward’ problems in terms of how they might fit into a disciplinary account such as presented in the text (see Rose 1993b). A particular problem which exercised the decision to right this box section was that whilst not wishing to reduce feminist geography to mainstream (for which also read ‘malestream’) philosophical positionings, it was still felt that much of the proliferation within feminist geography was reflective of, and in some cases clearly influenced, more widely constituted philosophical debates. Following on from this, particular forms of feminist geography will be iden­ tified and discussed on the basis of relationship with some of the philosophies discussed in the main text. This will draw particularly on the discussions of types of feminist geography advanced by McDowell (1993) and Pratt (2000). The former distinguishes three forms of feminist geography based on episte­ mological differences, while the latter, drawing on the earlier work of Bowlby et al. (1989) makes rather more of differences in ontological conceptions, although also ending up with a three-fold differentiation. Drawing of these


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works it is possible to suggest at least four distinct forms of feminist geography which bear some association with the philosophical positions of empiricism, structuralism, Marxism, postmodernism and post-structuralism. Feminist empiricism An early focus of feminist geographers was on ‘making women visible’. This was a broadly empiricist exercise which sought to highlight the ‘gender blind­ ness’ of much of human geography which had tended to either assume that: i) women had the same concerns and interests as men, and hence that gender did not matter, or did not matter as much as other axes of social differentiation such as class or ethnicity; or ii) men were the principal agents in the major geograph­ ical processes constituted in the public sphere, with the influence of women being seen to the lie primarily within a private sphere, itself accorded little significance (see main text). Feminist geographers undertook a series of empir­ ical studies highlighting differences between men and women in terms of their access to and use and experiences of space; the neglected role of women in public sphere processes such the restructuring of urban space (see Chapter 10); and how the women’s activities within the ‘private sphere’ of household work determined the time-space co-ordinates of, and restrictions on, their everyday lives. This feminist geography focused on issues of inequality, with gender being viewed largely in terms of different levels of constraint experienced by men and women, relating to the different ‘social roles’ they inhabited. Men were seen to, generally, inhabit rewarding social roles in the public sphere, such as being ‘wage-eamers’ in the official, money economy. Women, on the other hand were seen to generally hold un- or poorly rewarded social roles in the private sphere or at the margins of the public sphere, such as undertaking unpaid ‘reproductive labour’ (i.e. domestic and caring work) and/or part-time, low paid work. These studies have been characterised as broadly liberalist in political outlook it that they focused on the distributional issues - were women getting a fair return for their work - and the reform of existing social institutions, such as labour markets and the welfare state. As such they had, as Pratt (2000) notes, clear similarities with variants of radical geography such as ‘welfare geography’ (see text). Structuralist feminisms At just the time when feminist geographers were using empirical studies to highlight and undermine the gender blindness of human geography, empiricist ideas were themselves coming under challenge, notably from radical and struc­ turalist philosophies. Under the influence of these philosophies, and also from debates within feminism more widely, feminist geographers began to question the value of simply making women empirically visible. In particular it was suggested that empirical analysis might simply reproduce, and not put into question, women’s oppression in that it seemed to view differential gender roles as pre-given, rather than look at how these roles were created. In other

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography

words, and to use phrasing oft used by structuralist geographers, empiricist feminism was seen to ‘describe and not explain’ gender differences. In the 1980s there emerged various calls to develop a more ‘radical’ feminist geogra­ phy which, amongst other things, cast gender roles as a phenomena in need of explanation, and sought to explain them by considering them as the product of social relations and associated ‘social structures’. Two particular versions of this structuralist feminist geography emerged: socialist feminism and radical feminism. Socialist/Marxist feminism As outlined in the text, a series of initial forays into a range of radical geogra­ phies in the 1970s gradually came to be replaced by a more sustained engage­ ment with ideas drawn from Marxism. Drawing on this movement and broader debates within feminism, a number of feminist geographers began to argue that differential gender roles might be understood through a Marxist theoretical framework and that feminist concerns over women’s oppression needed to inte­ grated within a broader socialist critique of social exploitation and domination. McDowell (1986), for example, argued that women’s oppression and exploita­ tion stemmed from the demands of capitalism, particularly for as low a wagelabour rate as possible and for the reproduction of a labour force through time. Radical feminism Many feminists were unhappy with both liberal feminism and socialist femi­ nism, and sought to theorise alternative explanation of difference gender roles. One widely canvassed suggestion was that differential gender roles were a product of ‘patriarchy’ which was conceptualised as collection of political, economic, ideological and psychological structures in which women’s interests and concerns were subordinated to those of men (see Vogel 1983; Walby 1986; 1989; 1990). For feminists such as Stacey (1981) the structures of patriarchy predate those of capitalism and therefore logically cannot be derivative of them, although other feminists, notably Walby, sought to develop a ‘dual-struc­ ture’ theorization of gender roles which related them to both patriarchy and to capitalism (see also Foord and Gregson 1986). Postmodern feminism Despite their differences, em piricist, post-socialist and radical feminist geographies all retained many common philosophical and political elements. They all, as McDowell (1993: 306) comments, worked from a basic premise that men and women should be treated equally, but at present were generally not being so treated. They all also employed a dualistic gender ontology in which people were simply separated into male and female, men and women. A further commonality was that they all retained some belief in the power of objective rational thought to both disclose and potentially change social reality. In other words they all employed a variant of ‘enlightenment thought’ (see text).



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In the 1980s and 1990s all of these taken for granted elements of feminist geography came under scrutiny. The notion of equal treatment, for example, began to be criticised for failuring to recognise and respect the differences that being a woman entailed. Seeking equality with men was seen to be equivalent to seeking to become like men, a project which rather ignored the negative aspects of male behaviour. Feminist geographers in particular began to high­ light the undesirability of emulating many of the practices routinely employed by many male academic geographers, such as a willingness to talk for, and over, others. They also began to suggest that there might be positive benefits that being a women might bring to the construction of knowledge. Increasing the ‘situatedness’ of knowledge production was highlighted by feminists, it being suggested by some that women might have a distinctive position or standpoint from which construct knowledge. Notions of standpoint theory were advanced by Hartsock (1983), the character of which has been well summarised by Di Stenafano: the gender specific and differentiated perspective of women is advanced as a preferable grounding for inquiry - preferable because the experience and perspective of women as the excluded and exploited other is judged to be more inclusive and critically coherent than that of the masculine group (Di Stefano 1990: 44).

A variety of other variants of standpoint theories have been advanced, with some variants of post-colonial theory, for example, arguing that the view from ‘the margin’ or from ‘the border’ or from some ‘nomadic’ position might be more inclusive (see hooks 1990a; 1990b; 1988a; Spivak 1988b). Notions of objectivity were sometimes retained albeit substantially reconfigured, as in the work of Haraway (1988) who argued for an embodied objectivity which acknowledged that knowledge claims are always partial (in the sense of being both incomplete and being biased in favouring particular social groups and interests) but could be seen as truthful if those making them were made to be answerable and accountable for the consequences of their knowledge claims. For other feminists, standpoint theory pointed to the partiality of all theory, a view which has clear connections with notions of local knowledges as outlined by some postmodernists (see text). A series of debates within and beyond geog­ raphy emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s focusing on the relationship between postmodernism and feminism (see McDowell 1991a; 1992; Nicholson 1990; Pile and Rose 1992). The rise of postcolonial and postmodern studies was also of significance to feminism in that they acted to fragment the dualistic gender ontology of men and women by suggesting that the experiences and interests of women might be quite different from each other, given that women might be positioned quite differently from each other in relation to lines of social differentiation such as age, class, sexuality, conialism, ethnicity and nationality. There has hence, emerged what might be described as a ‘postmodern feminism’ concerned to recognise the presence of both different sorts of women (and indeed different

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sorts of men) and also of problematic relationships between women as well as between men and women. Postfeminism The recognition of social differentiation and relations of exploitation and domi­ nation between women, as well as between men and women, poses consider­ able stresses on the politicised epistemologies of feminism and feminist geography, which had assumed that there was some common interest between women related to their unequal treatment vis-a- vis men. Much of the debate over postmodernism and feminism mentioned above centred around the seem­ ingly divergent politics associated with each philosophy, a discussion which also figured in Marxist reactions to postmodernism (see text). Adding further complexity to these reflections has come the increasing engagement by geogra­ phers and feminists with post-structuralist ideas and an associated scepticism about the status of any categorisation, including those of male/female, man/woman. The notion of gender as a structural foundation of social life has come under question with the very distinction between two genders being seen by people such as Butler (1993) as as a social, indeed discursive, product. People become gendered and sexed through being socialised into and perform­ ing gendered/sexed identities; and people who do not act according to domi­ nant scripts have often found themselves subject to a range of disciplinary procedures, such as social discrimination and expulsion, psycho-analytical therapies and medical operations. On the other hands, some people have sought to perform alternative identities, some of which actively transgress gender binaries, as in transvestism. The transformation of gender from transhistoric/transpatial structural causal entity to a highly contingent and possibly very ambiguous outcome clearly raises new political questions for feminism. The term postfeminist has some­ times been used to characterise feminist work which adopts a performative, post-structural view of gender. This term itself, however, is subject to several politically quite different interpretations. For some, the term ‘post-feminism’ implies the end of feminism, either in the sense that feminism has been seen to have achieved its aims or, and in one sense more consistent with post-struc­ turalist arguments, because there are seen to be no essential differences between men and women. For others, however, postfeminism is a continuation of feminism, albeit one which recognises no appeal to intrinsic gender differ­ ences and points to the possibilities of new performances of gender, such as, to name one prominent popular manifestation, girl power which seeks to create new, empowered visions of femininity. The extent to which in popular manifes­ tations of girl power enact radically new gender identities and relationships have been the subject of much debate (see Heath 1997; McRobbie 1993).

Closely connected with the focus on social difference and the challenging of previous boundaries of geography has been the study of so-called neglected others (Philo 1992b). These are people who, in one way or another, ‘stand outside the societal

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mainstream’, who are ‘other’ than ‘male, white, heterosexual, middle-class, middle aged, able-bodied and sound in mind’ (Philo 1993: 430). As is well demonstrated in other chapters in this book (see especially Chapters 9, 10, and 11), the study of others formed a focus for much geographical work in human geography in the late 1980s and 1990. Indeed, Cloke et al. (1991: 191) have claimed that the ‘blindness to the diversity of human groups’ which characterised much of past human geographies ‘is now being rectified’. Dear also claims that, in my mind ... the advent of postmodernism has had a liberating effect on previously silent voices, including those of feminists, disabled and disadvantaged people, gay and lesbians, and people of colour ... Such groups have benefited from the new legitimacies accorded to difference (Dear 2000).

There certainly has been an enlarging portfolio of people studied by human geogra­ phers: as well as studying various aspects of white, middle-class, middle-aged, male, straight society, geographers are now, as is demonstrated in other chapters in this book, producing studies of wide range of peoples, including: ‘people of colour’ (e.g Agyeman and Spooner 1997; Pratt et al 1998); the economically marginalised (see Chapters 9, 10 and 11); the elderly (see Chapter 11), the young (e.g. Holloway and Valentine 2000; James 1990; Matthews and Limb 1999); women (see Box 2.11); gays and lesbians (e.g. Bell and Valentine 1995a; 1995b; Valentine 1993; 1997a); and many other ‘others’ besides. Furthermore, as is discussed in Chapter 10, it has also been shown that people lying outside or on the margins of conventional society can have major impacts on many of the things traditionally studied by geographers such as the gentrification of cities. However, as Cloke and Little (1997: 281) conclude in a collection of studies of otherness and marginalisation in rural spaces, not only does geography still remains ‘desperately short of information on the lives and experi­ ences of a whole range of neglected’, but also there a danger that such studies that are done may constitute little more than a ‘touristic’ flitting into, and voyeuristic gazing on, the lives of others. Whilst the voices of others may be incorporated within the text of these studies, the power of authorship are generally firmly retained by the researcher and/or by agencies commissioning research and as a consequence these studies may produce little or nothing which is ‘of relevance, use or interest to the subject(s) of that research’ (p. 282). Indeed, there may well be major epistemological problems surrounding the notion of ‘giving voice to others’, problems very much recognised by postmodernists and post-structuralists. Postmodern Epistemology In relation to epistemology, postmodernism can be considered as involving a rejection of, or at the least a movement away from, modem views on knowledge. Since at least the Renaissance, and indeed probably well before then, the acquisition of knowledge is seen to be in one sense of another emancipatory. In the Rennaissance of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, for example, knowledge was seen bringing about freedom from dogmatic understandings and allowing a flowering of humanity, while during the ‘scien­ tific revolution’ of the sixteenth century, knowledge, at least in its scientific variants, was seen to hold the prospect of ‘liberation from both the drudgery and dangers

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


associated with eking an existence out of the natural environment’ (Cloke et al. 1991: 188). A connection between knowledge and emancipation was more explicitly and fully articulated in the ‘Enlightenment’ period of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, where the exercise of reason and the creation of rational knowledge was seen to create freedoms for personal expression and communal organisation, as well as breaking down constraints of economic necessity. The association of knowledge with emancipation continued into the twentieth century where it became synonymous with the notion of modernism, and this association can indeed be seen to infuse many of the philosophies which have processed through modem geography. Within positivism knowledge is seen to bring powers of prediction and control over the natural and social circumstances; for the humanistic geographer knowledge brings about improved understanding of oneself and others; for the structuralist knowledge allows one to look through appearances and reduce delusions about the world. In contrast with these ‘modernist philosophies’, postmodernists have sought to turn away from, and in some cases completely reject, Enlightenment ideas and ambi­ tions. In part this was because they recognised that the various projects of the enlightenment had a ‘black side’ (Habermas 1987a: 110) which, as Harvey (1989) notes, had either been effectively ignored or else seen as stemming from failures to apply enough enlightenment rationality (see Chapter 3 on the problems associated with notions of development). Such black sides have, however, been widely recog­ nised by many people who might still be said to subscribe to the so-called enlightenment project. Leading theorists of the so-called ‘Frankfurt school’ of critical theorists have, for instance, written at length on the problems of enlightenment thought and practice (e.g. Adorno and Horkheimer 1979; Habermas 1984; 1987a; 1987b; 1989; Marcuse 1964) and yet have, in some sense or another, all retained retained a faith in the power of reason and social emancipation. By contrast, post­ modernists such as Lyotard have argued that the enlightenment was not simply an ‘incomplete’, as yet ‘unfinished project’ (Habermas 1983; 1987a) with serious blem­ ishes, but was a fatally flawed project which could never be completed. A variety of different interpretations of why the enlightenment project could not be completed have been advanced, but one of the most influential in the context of post­ modernism is arguably that of Lyotard (1984). As already mentioned, Lyotard argues that the pursuit of science is often connected, albeit in often roundabout routes, to ‘metanarratives’ such as ‘human emancipation’ and the ‘realisation of the human spirit’. Lyotard was, however, sceptical about the value of these narratives and claimed that this scepticism, or ‘incredulity’, was widely shared. Connor provides a clear summary of Lyotard’s arguments: Science is no longer held to be valuable and necessary because of the part it plays in the slow progress towards absolute freedom and absolute knowledge. With this loss of confi­ dence in the metanarratives (and perhaps as a contribution towards such loss of confidence), comes the decline of general regulatory power in the paradigms of science itself. ... [S]cience develops into a cloud of specialisms each with its own incompatible mode of proceeding, or language game. None of these language games has recourse any longer to external principles of justice or authority; in this situation, the goal is ‘no longer truth but performativity’ ... - no longer what kind of research will lead to verifiable facts, but what kind of research will work best, where ‘working best’ means producing more research on the same lines, and increasing the opportunity for more (Connor 1989: 32).


Contested Worlds

Lyotard hence argues that people have lost faith in the meta-narrative that science leads, as Habermas (1971) put it, ‘towards a rational society’ and also that science has become so specialist and fragmented that there can be no meaningful communication and integration between scientists working in different areas or taking different approaches. Positivistic notions of gradual integration of sciences and accumulation of knowledges are, hence, both clearly rejected by Lyotard, as indeed is the notion that philosophy can act as some form of arbiter over the status of particular types of knowledge and their relationships. As Dear (2000: 36) puts it, postmodernism may be seen to signal the ‘end philosophy’ in that the ideas of philosophers become merely another set of debates, or ‘language games’. Dear also suggests that postmodernism breaks down the significance of philosophy within academic disciplines as, ‘[a]ll paradigms, theoretical frameworks, and discourses are obliged to surrender their privileged status. They are, in principle at least, all equally important or unimportant’ (Dear 2000: 36). Furthermore, as Bauman (1987) has highlighted, such a perspective on knowledge radically affects the status of academic knowledge: rather than being seen to produce forms of superior knowledge able to arbitrate between competing interpretations and solve problems, academic knowledge becomes simply one more story of no greater value than any other. More generally still, the arguments of people like Lyotard problematises the whole notion of truth, suggesting that what really matters is performativity, or the ability to have an effect. This last argument of Lyotard connects closely to the arguments of several other people often associated with postmodernism. Foucault (1980), for example, argues that knowledge does not lead to emancipation from necessity and social control but is itself a form of power. Drawing in part on the writings of Nietzsche, a nineteenth century poet/philosopher who is often described as a fore-runner and/or father figure of postmodernism, Foucault argues that the desire or ‘will’ to create/have knowledge is also a desire/will to have power. Similarly it has been argued that the writings of the French philosopher/literary theorist Derrida reveal how the process of writing contains ‘conscious and unconscious strategies of exclusion, and are rife with internal contradictions and suppressed paradox’ (Dear 2000: 36). Furthermore, as discussed in Chapter 3, the work of a range of post-colonial theo­ rists such as Said and Escobar have highlighted how a concern for others is translat­ able into a concern for power over others: notions such as truth, knowledge, representation and development are all, to adopt a phrase from Peet (1998: 235), ‘emancipatory languages of domination’. Three ideas have often been foregrounded in the postmodern critique of enlighten­ ment notions of knowledge and truth. First, and closely connected to the critique of grand theory discussed previously, there have been calls to recognise the ‘limits to theory’ (Ley 1989a), and in particular its ‘partial’ character. Here arguments focus on the issue of representation, with, as Philo (1992a: 158) comments, there being ‘deep scepticism about the ability of theoretical endeavor to represent’ what is happening within ‘the geography of things’. Amongst the reasons which might be advanced for this situation is the complexity and fluidity of the postmodern world which may make it increasingly difficult to, hitching a phrase oft banded about in the study of postmod­ ern objects, to ‘cognitively map’ these geographies. However, more epistemologically fundamental are claims that theories, at best, have always both served to represent and obscure phenomena. There is a clear line of connection in the later

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


arguments to the epistemology of post-structuralism, and elaboration of this aspect of representation will be left until then. As well as stressing partiality, postmodern discussions of epistemology have also highlighted the situatedness of knowledge: how knowledge is always constructed from a position somewhere within society. This understanding is widely contrasted with ‘objectivist’ epistemologies such as positivism, which as noted previously, seek to enact a separation of the researcher from social involvement. As Duncan and Ley (1993) have noted, a particularly striking representation of the positionality of objec­ tivism is provided in Joanne Sharpe’s drawing Topographical Survey in which the researcher may be seen as a disembodied viewer able to survey a world from which they have somehow managed to detach themselves in order to obtain a privileged vantage point. One might even say that objectivism pictures the researcher as some ‘remote sensor’, able to survey the world via some orbiting satellite. However, such a location may be neither desirable nor, even more significantly, possible: even remote sensors, are always situated within society, reliant on myriad others to build, fund and operate the satellites and also requiring earth based observations to establish socalled ‘ground truths’ (Pickles, 1995). Haraway (1991: 308) has described the idea of being able to view everything from some privileged position as ‘an illusion, a god trick’. Despite such arguments, objectivist positionings have been discerned not only within the writings of logical positivism but also in a variety of other ‘modernist’ and ‘masculinist’ accounts, such as David Harvey’s analysis of postmodern cities (see Box 9.3). A range of other, explicitly ‘situated’ positionings have, however, been advanced within an expanding spatialisation o f epistemology: hence there have been calls to view things ‘from below’ (e.g. Haraway 1991); ‘from the streets’ (e.g. De Certeau 1984); from the ‘margins’ (e.g. hooks 1990a; 1990b), from the ‘contact zones’ and ‘border’ areas (e.g. Bhabha, 1994), from real-and-imagined ‘thirdspaces’ (e.g. Soja 1996), and through ‘travelling’ (e.g. Clifford 1992) and ‘nomadism’ (e.g. Deleuze and Guattari 1987). In addition there has also been a more general awareness that geographical researchers need to reflect upon and make reference to their own posi­ tionality, or to put it simply, tell people ‘where you are coming from’ (Cloke 1999: 47). In addition to drawing on some spatialised epistemology, referencing one’s own positionality can, as Cloke notes, include situating the production of knowledge in personal experiences which might generate particular insights or perspectives on a situation. It is also often taken to imply situating the production of knowledge in rela­ tion to the capacities and incapacities which might be seen to stem from the position of the researcher in social relations of power, such as class, gender, ethnicity, nation­ ality, colonialism, imperialism and so on (within a postmodern emphasis on differ­ ence the list might be seen as literally endless). The term positionality may also be seen to have a political edge to it as well. As mentioned in connection with radical geography, theories do not necessarily need to restrict themselves to the ‘what is’ but could also seek to explore the ‘what could be’. Whilst Marxist and certain feminist and critical theorists sought some general, collective transcendence of the present, postmodernists have been sceptical about these ambitions and have instead focused on more personally situated, embodied transformations, often characterised as iden­ tity politics. Significant illustrations of this particularised political epistemologies include the various strands of feminism which aim to improve the situation of women


Contested Worlds

(see Box 2.11), post-colonialism with its concern to transcend colonial relationships (see Chapter 3), and queer theory which seeks to challenge homophobia and heteronormativity (see De Lauretis 1991; Geltmaker, 1992; Gibson-Graham 1998). Criticisms o f Postmodernism The impacts of postmodernism on geography, and indeed most other disciplines in the social sciences and humanities, have been considerable. They have, also been highly contested. So, for example, while the preceding two sections have identified five philosophical arguments associated with postmodernism - distrust of meta­ narratives and grand-theory; emphasis on difference; the problematisation of repre­ sentation; recognition of situatedness of knowledge; and its particularisation of social critique - each of these has been the subject of criticism. Harvey, for example, has been highly critical of postmodernism particularisation of social critique, claiming, that ‘postmodern thinking shuts off ... other voices from access to more universal sources of power by ghettoizing them within an opaque otherness’ (Harvey 1989: 117; also Harvey 1993). Harvey argues that postmodernists’ emphasis on local knowledge and difference ignores both the extent to which there may be commonali­ ties of interest between different peoples, and how localised differences may stem from extra-local social relationships, most particularly those of capitalism. Harvey’s emphasis on capitalist political-economy as the foundation of social difference has been subject to considerable criticism from feminists and postmod­ ernists (see Box 9.3). In responding to these criticisms, Harvey (1992) raised another epistemological issue, claiming that while postmodernists were criticising his work as being ‘wrong, misguided, or fundamentally misguided’ (p. 322), they could only do so by ‘deploying truth claims of their own’. Similarly, Sayer (1993a: 323) claimed that while postmodernists often argued that all knowledge was equally valid, they themselves often asserted ‘what is the case and what is not the case’. These two geog­ raphers were in effect giving specific instances of a broader argument advanced by Habermas (1987a), who claimed that postmodernists such as Lyotard and Foucault were guilty of ‘performative contradictions’ in that they often failed to enact their own arguments fully. In particular Habermas suggest that while postmodernists disparage meta-narratives and grand theories, they often employ them in their own writings (see Phillips 1994a; Fraser 1989). A range of meta-narratives and grand-concepts have indeed been identified within postmodern thought. Curry (1991) and Berg (1993), for instance, have identified modernist notions of authorship and knowledge within purportedly postmodern texts, whilst more generally, Berg (1993: 491) has commented that while he is sympathetic to many aspects of postmodernism he still ‘find it necessary to draw upon particular modernist narratives, such as “oppression”, “justice” and “equity” in order to make normative judgem ents’. It is just such meta-narratives, or perhaps rather better, grand-concepts, that Fraser (1989) identifies in the work of Foucault, despite his explicit scepticism at the value of such notions (see also Driver 1992). Postmodernism has not only been criticised for employing modernist meta-narra­ tives and/or concepts, but also of creating some new ones of its own. Kellner (1988), for example, argues that Lyotard’s account of postmodernism employs a ‘master narrative’ of the decline of the meta-narratives of modernity and sets up a grand, total­

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


ising concept, namely that local knowledges cannot communicate with each other. Honneth (1985) similarly suggests that Lyotard’s rejection of meta-narratives is contradicted by the repeated emphasis on respecting difference and local knowl­ edges. The emphasis given to notions of difference, otherness and the incomensurabilities of language has also been criticised for neglecting other aspects of social life, such as commonality and collectivity. Harvey (1993: 61-62), for example, claims that one of the impacts of postmodernism has been ‘to throw out the living baby of political and ethical solidarities and similarities across differences’. He argues that the commonali­ ties do exist between ‘differentiated social groups’ (Harvey 1992: 310) and that it is important to recognise and identify these because they may well form the basis of politically significant alliances. Furthermore, he suggests that postmodernists tend to treat difference as ‘an end in itself rather than a problem to be confronted’, at least in the sense of having to work out which differences should be taken as ‘positive ’ and which might be seen as ‘trivial, unimportant or downright objectionable’ (p. 312). For Harvey postmodernism leads into relativism whereby all forms of difference deserve recognition, all forms of knowledge are accorded equally validity, and all manifesta­ tions of otherness are to be fostered. This view has been criticised for failing to recog­ nise differences in difference: that is, how ‘[s]ome differences are playful, some are poles of world historical systems of domination’ (Haraway 1990: 203). McDowell (1992: 70) argues that while postmodern academics may revel in the play of differ­ ence, for many other people ‘“otherness” and “exoticness” reflects structures of oppression and domination’. McDowell also comments that while feminists have long sought to reveal the multiplicity of, and difference between, viewpoints on the world and thereby deconstruct the Western intellectual tradition which priorities ‘the male view of “the one” at the expense of the multitudinous “others’” (p. 60), this does not mean that multiplicity and difference is everything: Women are not looking for fragmentation but reconstruction and recentreing. Rather than the discovery of difference and the reiteration of the positionality of all social groups, divided by a range of social attributes ... feminism demands the recognition that certain of these social differences reflect and reinforce broad structures of social domination that need over-turning (McDowell 1992: 60).

For McDowell, Haraway and Harvey, difference is both a social feature which is not universally to be celebrated and encouraged, and also is a feature which is, at least in part, constructed as a product of other aspects of social life, such as systems or struc­ tures of domination. For Harvey, central themes within postmodernism, one might even say its ‘meta-narratives’, are the revelation of how: the world is a complicated place, that it is always hard to grasp what is happening to us and to it, and that something can be gained from looking at the oddities and complexities rather than presuming simplicities (Harvey 1992: 311).

For Harvey, while these themes are useful, postmodern thinking should not be ‘merely about complication without explanation’ (p. 311) and there are important philosophical and political differences between seeking to ‘give full play to differentiated identities once they have formed’, and endeavouring to understand the


Contested Worlds

‘social processes of construction of identities’ and/or ‘the social processes creating ... a problem ’ such as homelessness (Harvey 1993: 64). As Fraser (1997) also comments, dealing with problems such as homeless or unequal access to work may involve actions which actively seek to undermine the relationships that constitute some group’s social identity: that is, if you could abolish homelessness then you would undermine senses of identity amongst the homeless; if you equalised access to employment for women you might undermine the basis for collective feminist identi­ ties (see Box 2.11). For Harvey (1992: 316) some representations are ‘more adequate than others’ and the formulation of ‘proper and powerful’ theoretical representations is a serious task requiring careful thought and commitment. He does, however, acknowledge that not only is there much to be learnt from postmodernism with respect its ontological notions of difference, otherness and complexity, but also from its epistemological concerns over situatedness and representation. Even here, however, Harvey has some reservations. He argues, for instance, that many of the discussions of situatedness and positionality are overly too simplistic, often failing to recognise the differences which go up to may both situational contexts and the researcher. He claims that researchers, just like the people they research, are not distinct and homogenous entities, but rather are ‘bundles of heterogeneous impulses, many of which derive from an internaliza­ tion of the “other”’. In making these arguments Harvey can be seen to be drawing on arguments connected to notions of post-structuralism as much as, if not more than, postmodernism; although in Harvey’s writings these arguments are very much turned against their originators.

Post-structuralism Post-structuralism is a term closely associated with the term postmodernism and indeed, as noted earlier, there are so many areas of commonality and over-lap between the philosophies that they are often seen as synonymous. However, it is also possible to discern some lines of difference. For example, while the term postmod­ ernism had origins in art and architecture, post-structuralism had rather more philo­ sophical roots: Pratt (1994), for example, places that the origins of post-structuralism in the work of French philosophers such as Derrida, Lacan, Foucault and Kristeva. Post-structuralism can also be said to be rather more structural in its emphasis than postmodernism, which as argued earlier had a clear focus on human agency, particu­ larly that of neglected groups. Post-structuralism by contrast, and as its name suggests, seeks as Pratt (1994: 468) has put it, to ‘draw on and extend some of the important insights of structuralism’. Pratt goes on two identify two particular areas of development, namely ‘linguistics’ and the concept of the ‘human subject’. When structuralist approaches to human geography were discussed earlier, mention was made of the variety of structuralisms, including the linguistic structuralism of Saussure. Within human geography, however, the emphasis was generally on structures as social entities, as opposed to linguistic or indeed mental entities. Structuralism in human geography became quickly associated with Marxism, with structures being envisaged in terms of entities that connect people together in terms of social activities such as work, the communication of meaning and the exercise of authority. Structures

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


hence became entities such as ‘modes of production’, ‘state apparati’ and ‘ideological systems’. While reference was made by human geographers to the work of people like Piaget and Saussure whose conceptions of structuralism centred on mental or linguistic entities, there was no real sustained engagement with these ideas. However, in the late 1980s and particularly into the 1990s there was something of a return to the arguments of linguistic structuralists in particular, albeit engagement was now undertaken using the ‘post-’ epithet. Peet (1998), for example, has claimed that if one single feature might be used to characterise poststructuralist thought, ‘it is the linguistic turn towards discourse, text, reading and interpretation’ (emphasis added). Within forms of social structuralism like Marxism the individual person, or subject, is seen to be conditioned by broader social forces. Linguistic structuralism basically takes the same ideas and relates them to the development of language: indi­ vidual linguistic elements - such as words - are seen as having meaning by their posi­ tion within the broader linguistic patterns of meaning. A word gets its meaning from its difference from and relation to other words and associated meanings. This may seem like a small point but it has profound consequences in that its goes again many everyday understandings of what a term means and implies there are no necessary connection between terms and objects. As such it has considerable epistemological and ontological significance. Poststructuralist Ontologies In the 1990s a number of geographers began to argue that poststructuralist ideas could usefully be applied to understanding a series of subjects of geographical inter­ est, such as landscapes, places and spaces. An early strategy in such work was to conceptualise landscapes, places and spaces as ‘texts’, that is as conveyors of mean­ ings. One example of this was Cosgrove and Daniels’ (1988: 1) claim that landscapes were cultural images or symbols, ‘structuring or symbolising surroundings’ whether created through ‘paint on canvas, in writing on paper, [or] in earth, stone, water and vegetation on the ground’. This notion of landscape as text both significantly differed from earlier approaches to landscape, such as Sauer’s materially focused, largely empiricist, morphological analysis of cultural landscapes (see Jackson (1989) and Phillips (forthcoming-a)), and also paved the way for the adoption of post-structural­ ist ideas. In particular, Duncan (1990) and Barnes and Duncan (1992) drew on post­ structuralist theories of language to suggest that the meanings of landscapes should not be seen to stem from the character of landscapes conceived as ensembles of mate­ rial elements present within a particular area of space. Such a view can be seen to inform both empiricist accounts of landscapes, where meaning is constructed through observation of landscape elements by the researcher, and also humanistic concep­ tions whereby landscape meanings are constructed initially within the activities and experiences of people inhabiting an area and then are represented, and possibly rein­ terpreted, by the humanistic geographer in their research texts. By contrast, Barnes and Duncan (1992: 5) argue that landscape texts, be these of the researcher or of people inhabiting a landscape, should not be seen as ‘referential duplications’ of land­ scape elements, but rather should be viewed ‘intertextually’, that is produced out of, and in association with, other cultural texts.


Contested Worlds

Duncan (1990) develops these ideas through a study of the landscape texts associ­ ated with the Kandyian kingdom in nineteenth century Sri Lanka, identifying a series of ‘textual communities’ which draw together particular sets of texts to establish their interpretation of this landscape. This idea has, as is discussed in Chapter 10, been employed in the study of gentrification by Mills (1993), and notions of intertextuality have also been employed in discussions of place identities and imageries, and spatial distinctions such as urbanity and rurality. Halfacree (1993: 26), for example, argues that many geographers and other academics have sought to distinguish rural space from other spaces (most notably those of the urban) essentially on the basis of ‘properties which are seen to be inher­ ent in the rural environment’ and which, thereby, gave these spaces and the people inhabiting them some ‘distinctive rural character’. He suggests that not only has the identification of such elements and characteristics proved problematic with many supposedly rural elements and social characteristics being found to be almost equally present in spaces designated as urban, but that there has been ‘a failure to distinguish between the rural as a distinctive type of locality and the rural as a social representa­ tion’, or the ‘rural as space and the rural as representations of space’ (Halfacree 1993: 34). Many previous studies had effectively sought to bring about some one-to-one correspondence between representations of space and the character of spaces: to create definitions of rurality which represented the distinctive characteristics of rural localities. However, Halfacree, and also Murdoch and Pratt (1993) and Pratt (1996), argue that there may be little or no connection between socially accepted notions of rurality (or the countryside) and the characteristics of locations designated as rural, in large part because social representations of space are constructed out a diverse range of constituents, many of which have little or no connections to a locality, or indeed to rural locations in general. Halfacree, for example, argues that many academic defini­ tions of rurality draw upon non-academic, ‘lay’, understandings and that these in turn are made from an amalgam of other influences such as ‘personal experiences and “traditional” handed-down beliefs propagated through literature, the media, the state, family, friends and institutions’ (Halfacree 1993: 33). Post-structuralist arguments had been in existence some considerable time before they were picked up by geographers. Barnes and Gregory (1997: 294) suggest that post-structuralist ideas were not initially developed ‘with geography in mind’, which in part may account for the laggedly take up of post-structuralism in geography. Slightly conversely, Doel (1999: 2) has suggested that there was an ‘enormous, subterranean’ presence of attempts to link post-structuralism and geographical concerns in ‘fields as diverse as quantum physics, sociology, and philosophy’. Whichever interpretation is favoured, it was only in the 1990s that the presence of post-structuralist idea came to be felt in a sustained way within human geography. Not only did some geographers begin to appreciate their relevance of post-structural­ ist ideas to the study of traditional geographical subjects such as landscapes, place identities and spatial distinctions such as rurality and urbanity, but some also began to explore and adopt into geography some of the ontological subjects which had been constructed very clearly with post-structuralism in mind. In particular, discussions of post-structuralism had long tended to foreground notions such as discourse, identity, the body and, in a sense drawing all of the afore mentioned notions together, the constitution o f the human subject.

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


The notion of discourse is very much linked to post-structuralist theories of language. A discourse can be seen as a particular way of ‘talking about, writing or otherwise representing’ the world and things in that world (Cloke et aL 1999: 335), and from a post-structuralist viewpoint at least, is seen as being the product of a range of signifying elements and practices. Discourse hence do not here refer simply to verbal communication and debate, but include and are created from written texts, visual and audio imagery, bodily actions and all manner of entities - including spaces, places, and non-human elements of nature - which are seen to have some cultural meaning associated with them. These texts, images actions and entities act together to generate meaning: they form the system or ‘structure’ of texts or signs from which meanings are created and through which each elements gets its meaning. Once more, it is the interplay of signs, rather than the inherent character of an element, that produces symbolic meaning. Amongst the implications of this notion of discourse is that all aspects of geogra­ phy have a discursive aspect to them (McDowell 1995b). Even economic geography which has, as Crang (1997) notes, often been cast as the ‘other’ of anything cultural, has come to be considered as a discursive construct (see for example Barnes 1992; 1996a). However, not only has the notion of discourse signalled that all aspects of geography are cultural, it is also widely seen to imply that culture has power, or as it has been variously called material or performative effects. This argument is clearly seen, for instance, in the policies and practices which have flowed from various ‘discourses of development’ as is discussed in Chapter 3. Discourses are also widely seen in post-structuralist theories to be embedded within and regulated by relations of power, although there are some ambiguity about this issue, even within the work of one of the people most widely associated with this argument, namely Michael Foucault. Barnes and Gregory, for example, comment: Whereas in his earlier writings Foucault presents discourses as almost free-floating, abstract concepts, in his later writings he increasingly situates them on the ground within intricate social networks of power (Barnes and Gregory 1997: 140-141).

More specifically, Foucault conceptualisation of discourse shifted between works employing what he entitled an ‘archaeological’ perspective (e.g. Foucault 1970; 1972) and those adopting a so-called ‘genealogical’ one (e.g. Foucault 1977; 1980). Best and Kellner (1991: 40) comment that the former approach sought to identify ‘the determining rules of formation of discursive rationality that operate beneath the level of intention or thematic content’ (emphasis added). Employing an archaeological approach involved digging beneath and sifting through discourses to reveal the rules which structured people’s representations of the world. It was hence very similar to structuralism in that it sought to look through what people were saying to reveal what might be structuring those words. However, Foucault distanced himself from struc­ turalism and his archaeological approach might be better described as ‘quasi struc­ turalist’ (Hoy 1986). One area of difference was that Foucault’s archaeology did not involve digging deep for structures: for him the structures of discourse lay within discourse and not in any economic or political infrastructure or in the deep structures of the mind. Second, in clear contrast to the arguments of Levi-Strauss discussed earlier, the structures identified by Foucault were not seen as ‘universal or immutable


Contested Worlds

in character’, but rather were seen as ‘historically changing and specific’ (Best and Kellner 1991:40). Foucault’s genealogical approach continued, and indeed strengthened, the empha­ sis historical change. One of the criticisms levelled at Foucault’s archaeological approach was that whilst it recognised the possibility of change it never addressed how change occurred: hence Barnes and Gregory’s comments about ‘free-floating discourses’ (see also Dreyfus and Rabinow 1982: 27; Johnston 1997: 24). Foucault’s use of the term genealogy signalled a search for the origins of discourse, both tempo­ rally and also ontologically: within his genealogy Foucault, amongst other things, both charted the ‘historical lineage’ from the present of problematic discursive constructs such as ‘normal and abnormal, legitimate and illegitimate’, and also tracked the ‘family associations’ which existed between discourse and power (Johnston et al. 2000: 292). Within Foucault’s genealogy, discourse and power were seen as inter-related, and indeed inseparable: while in his archaeology Foucault wrote of discursive rules constructing particular ‘epistemes’, or knowledge-discourses, which determined what might or might not be construed as true; in his genealogy he was argued that relations of power were ‘linked in circular relations’ to ‘regimes of truth’ (Foucault 1980: 131) in such a manner that people should think in terms of ‘power/knowledge’ as opposed to power and knowledge, which implies two distinct, if interacting, entities. Foucault’s genealogical approach and associated notion of power-knowledges have been widely taken up within geography with studies both exploring the constitu­ tion of power-knowledges within academic geography (e.g. Unwin 1992; Livingstone 1992; Driver 1992) and within the worlds of various others (e.g. Matless 1995; Tsouvalis et al. 2000). Much of this work has also made use of Actor-Network Theory (Box 2.10) which may be seen as an extension of some of Foucault’s ideas. However, other people, including some often seen as adopting a post-structuralist perspective, have been quite critical of Foucault. Baudrillard, for example, has claimed that Foucault genealogical analysis was too structuralist: With Foucault power remains ... a structural notion ... with a perfect genealogy and an inexplicable presence, a notion that cannot be surpassed in spite of a sort of latent denunci­ ation ... It is hard to see how if could be reversed ... there is simply nothing else on either side of it, or beyond it ... Power ... is the last term, the irreducible web, the last tale to be told; it is what structures the indeterminate equation of the world (Baudrillard and Lotringer 1987: 39-40).

For Baudrillard power was not the ground to which discourses needed to be earthed, but rather power was itself a discursive construct like any other. Power was, Baudrillard and Lotringer (1987: 40) argue, a ‘simulacrum’, a concept without a referent, inter-textually constructed out of an array of signifiers, all of which were also simulacra. In Baudrillard’s work one can see the clear employment of a ‘post-structuralist’ theory of language where the development of concepts and signs is seen to evolve though a logic which is independent of the character and movements of an external, non-discursive, referents. One of the fullest expositions of such a perspective in geog­ raphy is provided by Doel, who argues, for instance, that:

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


There was a time when we foolishly thought that words (signifiers) presented, gave way to, or mapped onto, meanings (signified) and worlds (referents). Today, however, we should all be familiar with the genealogy of the free-floating and self-referential sign ... [T]he signifier moves before it ossifies into the terminus of signified or referent ... [T]he signifier is always in circulation, always on the move, always pointing towards something else, and something other, it is irreducibly nomadic: doomed to wander and fated to disseminate (Doel 1993: 386).

Doel argues that geographers should seek to follow these nomadic, rhizomatic, move­ ments, developing a ‘delirious cartography’ (Doel 1996: 427) of the innumerable lines of flight of any signifier, by which he means anything - event, object, word, thought and so on - which ‘chokes, binds or fascinates you’ (Doel 1993: 239). Doel himself has developed a series of ‘deconstructions’ of all manner of entities, ranging from the writings of ‘post-structuralist’ social theorists such as Baudrillard, Derrida, Lyotard, Deleuze and Guattari (see Doel 1996; 1999), through into notions of space and geog­ raphy (Clarke and Doel 1994a; Doel 1996), rural change (Doel 1994) and political geography (Clarke and Doel 1994b), and on into the conjunctive term ‘and’ (Doel 1996), the ‘Holocaust’ (Clarke et al. 1996) and a stack of tomatoes on a supermarket shelf (Doel and Clarke 1999). These are deconstructions not in the sense of destructive dismantling of a concept, account, image or discourse, but rather as an attempt to reveal the instabilities and extensions present in their very construction; to ‘(dis)locate and (up)root’ (Doel 1996: 426). For Doel there is no depth to ontology: the world is composed of signifers which are not the product of some underlying causal, structural, social relations such as those of power a la Foucault’s genealogy, but rather are part of a ‘scrumpled geography’ where everything is of equal potential significance and where there are labyrinthine lines of interconnection and disconnection. At present, post-structuralist ideas have been incorporated into the study of discourse in two quite divergent ways. This can be clearly seen in studies of geogra­ phy and colonialism, with many studies drawing on the ideas of Foucault and the closely associated ideas of Said (1995) to interpret various writings of European trav­ ellers and scientists as being the product of particular discourses and powers circulat­ ing within European society. In some contrast Barnett (1998) has sought to ‘deconstruct’ these writings by revealing how they contained ever so slight signifiers of the agency of colonised people. Barnett argues that colonial writing was often based on the knowledges of indigenous peoples, but this reliance was largely written out of accounts who instead tended to emphasis the superiority of European under­ standings. However, alighting on traces of reliance of colonialised subjects, Barnett seeks to read the texts of colonial geographers in a manner ‘otherwise than was intended’, to ‘inflect these discourses in new ways’, constructing European knowl­ edges as both exclusionary rather than all encompassing, and reliant rather than powerful. The differences marking off genealogical and deconstructive post-structuralisms can be seen to traverse the other ontological subjects foregrounded within the encounter with post-structuralism. Within the study of identity, for example, it is possible to identify studies which have argued that people’s identities are discursively formed through the operation of powers constituted through social relations such as class, ethnicity, gender, race, sexuality and nationalism and/or through psychological relationships with others (for discussions of the last set of relationships see Pile 1996;


Contested Worlds

Rose 1993a; Sibley 1995). Within such accounts, identities are seen often seen as quite stable, fixed by relations of power: to create new social and /or psychic identi­ ties the power structures of society need to change. Other studies, on the other hand, have seen identities as highly fluid and unstable entities, formed out of complex artic­ ulations of signifiers. Anderson (2000), for example, has sought to develop a postna­ tional approach which seeks to trace the ‘cultural routes’ though which national identities are constructed, routes which make take one far beyond the boundaries of any particular nation states. Some post-colonial studies have likewise emphasised the inter-connections and articulations of the identities of the coloniser and the colonised, noting how areas as distance as London and Perth may both appear equally at the ‘edge of empire’ (Jacobs, 1996). Post-structural/postmodern/post-colonial feminists (McDowell 1993; Pratt 1993), or as they might also be cautiously characterised post­ feminists (see Box 2.11), have argued that genders are discursively constructed and performed rather than some inherent, structuring entity. Likewise some variants of queer theory have argued that sexual identity is a discursive construct, with people becoming sexed rather than simply bom with a particular sexuality (see Butler 1993). Poststructuralist Epistemologies In addition to its impacts on what geographers have studied and how they have sought to understand phenomena, poststructuralism also has profound epistemological consequences. Post-structuralist theories of language imply that words and images do not necessarily correspond to a particular object or have distinct and stable meanings. This stands in clear contrast to the epistemologies that have underpinned much of geography. As discussed already with reference to postmodernism, the dominant view of theory development within geography has long been one of trying to get theo­ ries to ‘correspond to’, ‘re-present’ or ‘mirror’ objects of study. In other words, there is an attempt to establish clear, stable and unambiguous relationships between a concept, its meaning and some object or event to which the concept is seen to refer. However, not only has achieving consensus on the lines of association proved immensely difficult but may also, given a post-structuralist theory of language, be fatally flawed; doomed always to failure because the meaning given to any term or concept always stems more from the meaning of other concepts than it does to any world beyond the concept. The term rural, for instance, implies notions of the urban and of the agricultural, both of which are themselves far from clear cut and rely on a series of other concepts. Geographers for a long period had rather ignored such ideas, but during the 1990s an increasing number of geographers began to accept that the notion of representing objects and events in the world may be quite problematic and in some cases also to accept that there might be, as Baudrillard tellingly phrased it, ‘no system of refer­ ence to tell us what happened to the geography of things’ (Baudrillard and Lotringer 1987: 126). A series of authors (e.g Fischer and Marcus 1986; Cosgrove and Domosh, 1993) started to talk of a ‘crisis in representation’ and to, at the very least, question to what extent their concepts and theories related rather more to the cultural expectations held by themselves, their academic peers and the society in which they lived and worked, than it did to the character of some object or situations they were studying. There emerged an increasing concern to reflect on the origins of concepts

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


rather than simply seek to elaborate new ones and to apply them to understanding particular situations. Hence, as well as studying the discourse of others, geographers have also sought to be reflexive about their own discourse, although as might be expected given the earlier discussion of discourse there have been quite divergent foci for reflection. One strategy, already discussed within the ambit of postmod­ ernism, has been to seek to position geographical discourses in social relations of power such as class, gender, ethnicity, race and sexuality. Within works influenced by post-structuralism these positions are, however, often seen as ambiguous, uncer­ tain and even tenuous. Rose (1997), for example, highlights how discussions of the position of the researcher vis-a-vis those being researched often suggest quite differ­ ent positionings (such as needing to be in-side and detached from a situation) and how they require researchers be able to recognise their own positionality and yet a person’s self may well not be transparently knowable, least of all by the self. Rose also ends by arguing that there ‘is no clear landscape of social positions to be charted’ (p. 317) but rather researchers negotiate and perform a range of positions when carrying out research, some of which may have effects which reconfigure the performances, positions and powers of others. Rose very much seeks to connect discourse and action: knowledges are created through the performance of various research activities, ranging from conducting interviews and interacting with people ‘in the field’, through the writing of research accounts and into the dissemination of research as academic papers, seminar presentations and teaching. Other post-structuralist geographers have adopted a much more linguistic/textual focus to their study of geographical discourses, frequently either adopting a broadly ‘archaeological’ approach which seeks to situate particular concepts and associated knowledges within broader discursive networks or else seeking to ‘deconstruct’ them by revealing the inconsistencies that lurk within them. Barnes (1992), for example, can be seen to enact the former approach when he argues that neo-classical economic theories and the theories of Marxist political-economy were constructed using metaphors draw from physics and biology respectively; while later he examined the arguments used to justify the use of mathematics by quantitative geographers and sought to deconstruct them by revealing that ‘submerged beneath the ostensible clarity and precision of mathe­ matics are a series of metaphors, tropes, and rhetorical claims which subvert its central claims’ (Barnes (1996b). Despite the differences between Barnes’ two studies, both focus very clearly on the realm of signs and signifiers rather than any worlds to which these might refer. Indeed Barnes very clearly resists making such a connection, claiming for instance that ‘theoretical interpretations can reflect only other interpretations and not a bedrock reality’ (Barnes 1992: 118), and that: there is no ultimate signified, and only a system of signifiers that is inescapable, there can only ever be the flux of meaning, and no constant presence ... we can never have access to things in and of themselves (Barnes 1996b: 1025-6).

The implications of such arguments for people such as Strohmayer and Hannah (1992) is that theories and concepts cannot be made to refer or describe anything:


Contested Worlds Whenever we speak or write about a reality, the language we use is not the reality to which it is supposed to refer ... Descriptive language, no matter how precise and exhaustive, can never succeed in anchoring itself to a reality; it can only move ‘sideways’ through the realm of words (Strohmayer and Hannah 1992: 37).

They go on to argue that human thought and understanding is inexorably tied to the structures of language and that this ‘mediation’ by language ‘render problematic such concepts as immediacy, truth, certainty, and independent reality’ (p. 37). They add that they do not rule out the existence of such things as truth but merely that ‘if there is truth, we are incapable of recognizing it as such with any certainty’ (p. 39, original emphasis). Strohmayer and Hannah’s arguments have, however, been subject to criticism, albeit from two rather different directions. Sayer (1993a: 324-6) attacks their argu­ ments from a realist perspective (see Box 2.8), arguing that whilst theories and expla­ nations are ‘unavoidably linguistic’ and the notion of being able to say that one has definitely arrived at a true representation is ‘untenable’, it does not follow that there are no points of anchorage between language and other aspects of the world, nor that there is no value in the notions of truth (and indeed falsity). For Sayer there is not an endless ‘horizontal’ movement of flow of meaning but rather ‘it is a precondition of communication and social life that a large proportion of signifiers and sense relations are relatively stable’ (p. 326) both because without it language would become unintel­ ligible and because particular interpretations appear more ‘practically useful’, and thereby might be seen as ‘truer’, than others. Barnett (1993a; 1993b) criticises both Strohmayer and Hannah, and also Sayer. He argues that the latter presents a caricature of the arguments of post-structuralists and postmodernists and that he employs a very restrictive concept of language. By employ­ ing these techniques, Sayer develops an ‘unsympathetic critique’ of postmodernism and postructuralism, to which Barnett seeks to respond in kind (Barnett 1993b; see also Sayer 1993b). Stromhayer and Hannah identified very similar critiques in the work of Marxist writers such as Harvey (1989) and Jameson (1972) who they argue seek to ‘domesticate’ the two philosophies by failing to recognise the challenges they pose to established notions of theory and knowledge. Strohmayer and Hannah seek to ‘let loose the beast’ and recognise the full implications of the post-structuralist theories of language; yet Barnett (1993a) levies similar criticisms of them as he did of Sayer claiming that they caricature and homogenise work of a range of authors, plus misrep­ resents the arguments concerning language and representation of Derrida. In particular Barnett criticises Stromhayer and Hannah for failing to recognise that Derrida explic­ itly argued against an abandonment of notions of reference and representation and, connected to this, claimed that language and reality should not be conceptualised as ‘ontologically distinct realms’ (Barnett 1993a: 347). For Barnett: All language use rests on representation, and representation and reference are not some­ thing attached to language from the outside ... Derrida is not against representation, but is complicating our understanding of it (Barnett 1993a: 349).

In a sense, Barnett and Sayer come to quite similar conclusions, albeit through quite different routes. It is, however, also evident that there are major points of disagree­ ment between Barnett and Sayer and that the issue of representation is certainly both

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


complicated and contested. As Peet (1998: 215) notes, post-structuralist ideas concerning language and writing are often seen to imply that ‘representation theories of truth are impossible’. However, the arguments of Barnett suggest that this argu­ ment may be far from clear cut. Peet (1998: 215) also comments that even if representational theories of truth were possible, for post-structuralists they would inadequate in that ‘even accurate descrip­ tion only begins to approach the nebulous realm of truth’. Despite Strohmayer and Hannah protests to the contrary, their theorisation of language does seem to render notions of truth rather redundant: they argue that it is not possible to possible to pin down truth ‘with any certainty’ (p. 39) but do not then go on explore whether there is any value in making truth or validity-claims, albeit ones which are seen as always uncertain, provisional and contestable. Thompson (1990: 320), drawing on the criti­ cal theory of Habermas (see for example Habermas 1984; 1987a; 1987b; and Phillips 1994a), has argued that social interpretations should be seen as ‘inherently risky, conflict laden and open to dispute’, while Habermas himself has argued that the key epistemological issues are not whether or not one puts forward truth claims - for him in the very ‘act of uttering, language and the speaker are situated within, and hence make (albeit often implicitly) “validity” or “truth” claims’ (Phillips 1994a: 111) - but how is it that some claims are accepted and others not, and what are the social conse­ quences of accepting specific claims. In making these claims, Habermas’ work resonates somewhat with notions of ‘practical adequacy’ outlined by Sayer, not least because Habermas argues that ‘language does not form or operate entirely within a linguistic realm, but that it is frequently used within practical contexts’ (Phillips 1998c: 46-47). However, Habermas adopts a very broad definition of truth, seeing it as involving notions of ‘rightness’ and ‘sincerity’ as well as correspondence with the world of objects and events (see Phillips 1994a). These arguments raise an issue not explored by Strohmayer and Hannah, namely whether truth might both mean rather more than accurate representations of the real and come about in more ways than simply through correspondence of signs and referents. Indeed, Habermas distinguishes between ‘world generative’ and ‘problem-solving’ aspects of language (McCarthy 1987: 47), with the former referring to how in language people constitute and refor­ mulate their understandings of the worlds they inhabit and the latter referring to the way these understandings act as a medium for dealing with problems in the world, problems which may have extra-, but not non-, discursive origins. For Habermas both aspects of language are significant. Sayer on the other hand, may be seen to privilege the ‘problem-solving capacity’ of language, not least in his notion of ‘practical adequacy’. Habermas (1987a), however, suggests that post-structuralists such as Foucault and Derrida focus on the world-generative, or ‘performative’ (Barnett 1993b: 366) aspects of language, to the expense of the problem-solving. Harvey (1992) can be seen to be making rather similar arguments when he argues that Deutsche (1991), and by implication Baudrillard, employ a ‘discursive idealism’ in which cultural representations, whilst not actually representing anything, are seen to be the primary forces constructing the social world. For Harvey not only does this view give too much autonomy and power to cultural productions but it also, conversely, fails to connect representations to social realities, such as poverty. He argues that ‘some repre­ sentations are more adequate than others’ (p. 317) and that some things, such as the

Contested Worlds


presence and impacts of poverty, are ‘real and accessible enough’ whatever the episte­ mological issues surrounding notions of representation. Peet, like Harvey an early advocate of radical/Marxist geography, has also been fiercely critical of much of the work characterised here as poststructuralist (although Peet describes it as postmodern), claiming that it is far too focused on representations: Representations of representations ... amounts to a new kind of fetish, that of representationality. Its utter fascination with texts written about texts may produce a dense intertextuality which precludes contact with the world outside the fetishistic dream ... At its worst, postmodern geography is a kind of selfish, privileged self-gratification, displayed in essays which meander between personal idiosyncrasy and lazy bits of research ... Much postmod­ ern geography consists of reading the poststructuralist literature, arguing interminably over its contents, and making what are actually simple, tentative steps towards the study of space, place and environment (Peet 1998: 226-77).

Peet’s characterisation can be seen as rather misleading in that many post-structuralists have been highly critical of the notion of representation, and have sought either to dispense with it or at the least make people recognise that it is a much more complex affair than is often realised. Furthermore, as Peet himself mentions, not all post-struc­ turalists have been solely exercised by problems of representational accuracy and truth. Much of the radicalness post-structuralism may well lie in its recognition of the world generative aspects of language in ways other than through representation. Doel (1996: 433), for example, argues that the radicalness of post-structuralist thought lies in its commitment to ‘experimenting fully with what concepts can do’. Theory he argues, is ‘just like a bag of tools, filled with so many prostheses for enhancing, extending and intensifying though and action’ (Doel, 1999: 37) and that what matters ‘are the events and effects’ that theories give rise to, rather than ‘their “truth” to “sense” content’ (Doel, 1999: 4-6). Deleuze (1990: 321) likewise argues that a theory’s power lies in its ability to alter established meanings and to ‘impose a new set of divisions on things and actions’; while Baudrillard (1988: 57) argues that theory is a ‘seducing sign’, something which ‘one cannot avoid responding’. Doel (1999) also remarks on how Deleuze and Baudrillard engage in ‘theory-fictions’, and one can also point to their use of parody, irony and a humourous textuality which may be seen as aimed at continually provoke readers to ask ‘are you being serious’? Barnett (1993b: 366) notes that such textual strategies are often met with ‘cheerless and intolerant humour’ as critics seek to point out the absurdities in argument, but that in doing so one ‘might wonder who the joke is really on’ (see also the debates over Smith’s ‘Rethinking sleep’: Smith; 1996b, 1997; Hamnett, 1997b; Pile 1997; Peet 1998). Recently Thrift (1996; 1999; 2000; 2004) has argued for adoption of ‘non-representational theory’, and although his comments on this notion at present remain programmatic rather than demonstrative, they do at least point to the possibilities of looking at theory, and philosophy, in new ways.

Conclusion In this chapter I have sought to present some insights into philosophical debates and concepts as articulated in human geography during the course of the second half of the twentieth century and into the onset of the twenty-first. It should be stressed that

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography


the account presented is very much a personal interpretation and should hence not be seen as an objective account but rather a situated, positioned account. Readers may wish to disagree with the descriptions and emphases given in this account, and indeed there are numerous points in this account about which I am either uncertain and/or uneasy. Furthermore, despite its length, this account has clearly also been highly selective and reductionist. Philosophical debate even within a discipline which has long been highly resistant to things philosophical has burgeoned into a expansive, complex, varigated and highly contorted discourse. This chapter has attempted to chart some lines of similarity and difference, and there are various other cartogra­ phies of the philosophy in geography: Livingstone (1992), for example, charts a contested history of geography involving ten conversations; Unwin (1992) relies on a three-fold distinction between empirical-analytical, historical hermeneutic and critical science to make sense of the place held by geography; while Peet (1998) iden­ tifies eleven ‘schools’ of modem and postmodern human geographical thought. Doel wonders whether even this is sufficient to characterise the discipline: in Peet’s two dimensional pictogram ... the majority of the figure is cast in grey tones, and the resulting grey areas stand in stark contrast to the historicised white streaks of post­ enlightenment geography. One wonders what is lurking in the dark, uncharted and unattrib­ uted portions of geographical praxis (Doel 1999: 29).

He adds that in his view, It is futile to try to isolate discrete theoretical practices - each with its own system of ideas, conceptual approaches, phrase regime, frame of reference, proscribed territory, and logic of internal development - and to position each over and against the others (Doel 1999: 32).

The reason he gives is that, in his view, any philosophical practice would always ‘be endlessly other’, composed of multitudinous elements which not only do not add up to a complete unity but often connect one philosophy to another, in a series of contorted folds of influence and argument. Thinking in ‘-isms’, he argues, ‘invariably leads to the freezing of variation into monolithic and seamless constancy’ (Doel, 1999: 32). Barnett makes similar comments, albeit specifically with regard to the reception and use of postmodern and post-structuralist writings: What needs to be resisted is the construction of particular philosophical and theoretical work into the toothless beast we have come to know as postmodernism - the effect of this construction is to invite cavalier engagements with work whose complexity and openness in posing its problematizations demands a reciprocal degree of modesty and respect in drawing out its consequences (Barnett 1993a: 346).

Such comments are useful warnings, as it is very easy when reading some accounts of philosophy in geography to be left with the impression that it largely involves picking one out of a number of pre-existing, clearly delimited philosophies. Hopefully I have avoided giving such an impression of philosophy in geography within this account, because I do feel such an account is highly misleading. It is misleading, for instance, because it ignores the evidence that even the acknowledged and apparently influential - the so-called ‘master weavers’ (Bodman 1991; 1992) or, depending of your own

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perspective, ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ (Livingstone 1992: 5) of geography - have clearly struggled with philosophy, moving from one position to another: Harvey moved, for example, from positivism to Marxism; Duncan from humanism to post-structuralism; Gregory from structuralism, structuration and Habermasian critical theory to post­ colonialism and post-modernism. If such people have struggled with philosophy and had significant changes of heart and mind, then it is perhaps not surprising that others find it hard to identify where they stand within the debates. Furthermore, movement from one philosophical positioning to another should perhaps be expected and indeed encouraged given that, as Doel (1999: 30) comments: Concepts, ideas, frames of reference, and theoretical practices are never created ex-nihilo or given as ready mades ... They are fabricated and fashioned in particular contexts, from materials and practices that are ... available to us (Doel 1999: 30). Hopefully this chapter will have demonstrated some of the fabrications of philosophy in geography, given pointers to some of the contexts in which they have been produced and received, and also given you some materials to help fashion new, perhaps more becoming, philosophies in human geography.

Box 2.12: Chapter summary and suggestions for further reading •

Philosophical terms and debates have become a significant element of contem porary human geography, although geographers have often seemed reluctant to recognise their significance to the practices of doing geography

It is suggested that it may be useful to think about philosophies in terms of epistemologies and ontologies: that is in terms of theories of knowledge and theories of what exists.

A range of different philosophical positions have been discussed, includ­ ing empiricism, Comtean and logical positivisms, humanism, radicalism/ criticial theory, structuralism, post-modernism, post-structuralism.

The need for care and thought in the description of different philsophies, and in understanding philosophical change, is highlighted.

I have previously reviewed some of the major texts on philosophy and geogra­ phy (Phillips 1994), concluding that Livingstone’s (1992) The Geographical Tradition and Cloke et al.'s (1991) Approaching Human Geography provide useful commentaries on a range of philosophies, while Unwin’s (1992) The Place o f Geography provides a more argumentative assessment. Since writing this review article there have been several new or revised publications which may also prove very useful. These include Peet’s (1998) Modern Geographical Thought, which provides extensive reviews of philosophical discussion in both human geography and in wider social theoretical literature; Holt-Jensen’s (1999) substantially revised and graphically enhanced Geography: History and

Philosophical Arguments in Human Geography

Concepts - a Students Guide; Bames and Gregory’s (1997) edited collection Reading Human Geography; and Hubbard et a l ' s (2002) Thinking Geographically The new edition of Johnston et a l 's (2000) The Dictionary o f Human Geography is a must read for anyone interested in philosophical debates in human geography, while Johnston’s (1997) Geography and Geographers still provides a useful guide to some of the key people and debates in human geography. As well as these general texts, there have also been a series of more personal engagements with philosophy and human geography, including Gregory’s (1994) Geographical Imaginations; Harvey’s (1996) Justice, Nature and the Geography o f Difference', Pile’s (1996) The Body and the City and Doel’s (1999) Poststructuralist Geographies.


Part Two: Global Worlds

Chapter 3

Unravelling the Web of Theory: Changing Geographical Perspectives on Development E d Brown

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, lecturing on development theories was a rather well-defined domain of knowledge transfer. Authors on the subject used to be divided into ‘the good’ (neo-Marxists), ‘the bad’ (modernization theorists) and ‘the ugly’ (the computerized doomsday specialists) ... Now, well into the 1990s, things have changed. The good feel bad, the bad feel good, and the ugly underwent plastic surgery (Schuurman 1993: ix).

INTRODUCTION: THE DIVERSITY OF APPROACHES The content and theoretical orientation of undergraduate geography courses tackling ‘Third World' development issues (See Box 3.1 on the concept of the Third World) have been transformed considerably over recent years. Students beginning such courses in the early twenty-first century will find themselves grappling with an area of study that has been the site of considerable theoretical turmoil and not a little conflict, much of it linked to philosophical debates discussed in the preceding chapter. So, whilst few will escape the now obligatory treatments of the moderniza­ tion and dependency perspectives that dominated the field until the late 1970s, the majority of current students will also find themselves exposed to an at times bewil­ dering variety of other schools of thought. These might include a wide range of differ­ ent Marxist approaches, the neo-liberal counter-revolution in development policy formation and various schools of ecopolitical and feminist thought. Most recently, some will also have been introduced to post-colonial literatures and the complex philosophical terrain of postmodern approaches to social knowledge.

Box 3.1: The concept of the Third World As long ago as 1986, Harris pronounced the death of the Third World’ as a meaningful analytical concept. Approaching two decades later, the term appears to have suffered little from this and other attacks. Two important recent


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‘development’ texts (Escobar 1995 and Kiely and Marfleet 1998), for example, both feature it in their titles. So where did the term originate and what has led to the range of different views on its current applicability? Bell (1994) draws our attention to two specific usages of the idea of the ‘Third World’ and their different origins. The term’s original meaning was political, emerging out of a conference in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955, where a group of African and Asian nations attempted to assert their unity, common interests and independence from both the capitalist and socialist worlds, presenting themselves as an identifiable alternative, non-aligned, ‘third’ world. This positive, self-referential, definition was, however, gradu­ ally to give way to the more familiar economic interpretation whereby the ‘Third World’ became defined through its lack of economic development and the pejorative stereotypes now popularly associated with the term (famine, drought, political instability, poverty and corruption) began to take root. In this sense, the ‘Third World’ gradually shifted from representing a dynamic political alternative to become a symbol of ‘paternalism’ and ‘dependency’ (Bell 1994: 174-175). The term’s association with such negative connotations, together with the end of the Cold War and the increasingly divergent experiences of the nations said to constitute the ‘Third World’, mean that attitudes such as Harris’ are hardly surprising. For many, such concerns have been sufficient to lead to their complete abandonment of the term. For others, the ‘Third World’, for all its limitations, remains an important descriptive tool. Ray Kiely, for example, concludes his introduction to Globalisation and the Third World through an, at least partial, endorsement of Worsley’s defence of the term back in 1984: Worsley has argued that, ‘The Third World is not a myth. The various meanings with which the term “Third World” has been invested show family resemblances, even though they do not fully coincide. They have, that is, a common referent in the real world out there: the unequal, institutionalized distribution of wealth and illth on a world scale’ (Worsley 1984: 339). Thus, while non-alignment makes less sense in a post-Cold War world, and there is no economic unity (and proba­ bly never was) among an extremely diverse set of nations, the reality of global inequality means that, for Worsley, the Third World continued to exist. While such a definition lacks analytical rigour ... it at least has the merit of identifying such inequalities. The Third World therefore remains an important descriptive term, and it is in this sense that the contributors to this book continue to find it appropriate (Kiely 1998a: 16-17).

Overall, it is clear that quite what the ‘Third World’ represents has changed markedly over time and the term continues to signify different things to differ­ ent people. Nevertheless, despite the obvious analytical and representational limitations, it remains a central concept within studies of development and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Unravelling the Web o f Theory


In a certain, perhaps over-simplistic, way this thematic and theoretical diversifica­ tion is hardly surprising when one considers the dramatic ways in which the world has changed over recent years. The end of the Cold War and the continuing struggles over the direction of the New World Order now emerging from its ashes (see Chapter 5), together with the much discussed, if seldom specified, phenomena of globalization, have (just to mention two examples) fundamentally transformed the international political and economic environment within which developing soci­ eties find themselves. Furthermore, the increasingly divergent experiences of devel­ oping countries themselves have seriously problematised attempts to generalize about development and it is little wonder that theories that first emerged in the 1960s and 1970s do not appear to have the capacity to successfully interpret condi­ tions in the new millennium. Nonetheless, it would be over-simplistic to view recent transformations in the theorization of development as merely signifying the replacement of older inadequate theories by newer ones more able to interpret contemporary global change. The rela­ tionships between ideas and wider political and economic contexts are far more complex than any simple correlation between the waxing and waning of particular theories and changes in the wider world (see Forbes 1987). As an illustration, one only has to think of situations where adherents of a particular view of development have managed to gain the political power to implement policies derived from those views in the ‘real world’. The rise and fall of particular theoretical perspectives on development is, therefore, linked not only to the changing nature of the global economy and polity, but also to the balance of ideological and political conflicts, the internal progression and reworkings of particular schools of thought and the changing nature of the academy itself (and its relationship to the wider world of politics and policy), issues which will be examined in more detail later. The sheer range of approaches towards development issues can initially appear extremely intimidating. Much of the confusion often experienced in first encounters with the literatures of development arises, not only from the variety of perspectives involved, but also from the ways in which very different types of issues have tradi­ tionally been conflated under the broad banner of Development Theory (Martinussen 1997: 14). The ‘catch all’ term ‘Development Theory’ has been applied, not only to conceptual discussions of what ‘development’ is actually understood to mean, but also to more policy-related considerations of how particular ideas of development might be best implemented or of what features or conditions might inhibit the achievement of particular development objectives. It will be useful to bear these different dimensions in mind during the discussions that follow (see Box 3.2).

Box 3.2: Dimensions of development theory Development studies is, by its very nature, a vast and divergent field of study. Coming to terms with the issues involved is not aided by debates which accord­ ing to Martinussen (1997) obscure and confusingly mix various dimensions of issues, a similar language of development often being applied to quite distinct theoretical concerns. Martinussen identifies three distinct areas of development

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theorization, which he terms respectively - ‘development concepts ' (or objec­ tives), 'development theories' and 'development strategies'. Martinussen’s first term refers to fundamental ideas regarding what develop­ ment is understood to mean (these are sometimes more formally formulated as specific development objectives). He argues that it is here that the influence of the individual values of each theorist can be most clearly seen, in that a devel­ opment concept will always reflect notions of what ought to be understood by development (Martinussen 1997: 14). These concepts have frequently been hidden in development research as the meaning of development has often been assumed rather than articulated. Recent years have, however, seen direct considerations of such issues become more prominent as the purpose and impacts of ‘development’ have been increasingly contested. Martinussen reserves the use of the ‘catch-all’ term ‘development theory’ for theories that seek to explain how the world is actually constituted (rather than how they feel that it ought to be structured). These theories address more specific questions such as: what conditions/structures are likely to influence progress towards particular development objectives or in what ways different social groups and geographical locations are likely to be affected by the processes of ‘development’. For Martinussen, these theories, whilst not ‘valueneutral,’ are more amenable to empirical analyses of ‘actual conditions and historical experiences’ than the more ‘value-laden’ development concepts (later discussions in this chapter will question this distinction). Finally, more policy-oriented questions as to ‘the actions and interventions that can be appropriately used to promote strictly defined development objec­ tives’ (Martinussen 1997: 15) are denoted as 'development strategies'. The distinctions between these three different aspects of development theory are illustrated graphically in Figure B3.2.


Development Process


Development Concept .

Development Strategy ^

Figure B3.2 Development concepts, theories and strategies Source: based on Martinussen, J 1997 Society, state & market (London: Zed Books), p. 15

Unravelling the Web o f Theory


The rest of this chapter explores these shifts in theoretical focus in more detail. Attention will focus initially upon a range of Marxist-influenced perspectives which came to dominate geographical discussion of development from the early 1970s, before then exploring critiques of that literature which emerged in the so-called ‘impasse debate' of the mid-to-late eighties and beyond. Before this, however, some of the background to how geographers have approached the study of ‘developing’ regions since the Second World War will be traced.

THE EARLY EVOLUTION OF DEVELOPMENT GEOGRAPHY During the immediate Post-War decades geographical studies of the non-Western world had largely consisted of detailed descriptive regional geographies, which, on the whole, were not placed within any clear theoretical framework (Forbes 1987: 57; see also Chapter 2). From the early 1960s, however, the theoretical vacuum in which development geographers appeared to work gradually began to be chal­ lenged. This reflected a growing attempt to develop the systematic side of geogra­ phy (the analysis of process and causality rather than the simple description of regions) that was then occurring in many parts of the discipline (see Chapter 2). As a result, developm ent geographers turned to the statistical techniques of the Quantitative Revolution (see Chapter 2) as part of a search for ‘scientifically’ testable spatial laws and patterns that might effectively chart the processes of ‘modernization’ across the globe. These new, more systematic approaches derived their underlying models of causa­ tion from the dominant theories of social and economic modernization of the time (see discussions in the following section) and most research consisted of attempts to model and statistically analyse relationships between key factors suggested by those theories. This interest in modernization occurred, however, at a time when the central tenets of such theories were being subjected to far-reaching criticism in other fields. This, together with the increasing radicalism of geographers and a growing disillu­ sionment with quantitative techniques, meant that geography’s flirtation with modernization was short-lived. Such factors set the scene for an engagement with more radical research agendas and the beginning of the 1970s witnessed the gradual establishment of a range of Marxist approaches that were to remain dominant in geographical treatments of development until the mid-to-late 1980s. These ideas first infiltrated into the disci­ pline through an engagement with the neo-Marxist writings of Gunder Frank which had grown popular in wider academic debates about development during the 1960s. During ensuing years, drawing upon various critiques of Frank, geographers began to engage with a number of different Marxist perspectives. Many of the debates that have occurred since, both within the Marxist tradition and between Marxist theoreti­ cians and others, mirror those that have occurred within the wider field of develop­ ment studies and it is to those debates that we now turn. It is interesting to note, however, how development geographers have evolved from the theoretical vacuum in which they appeared to work before the 1960s, through a stage when they became consumers of theoretical developments in other fields (firstly through exposure to the empiricism and positivism of the quantifiers and secondly through the opening of the


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discipline to the influence of radical social theory) to a position where today geogra­ phers are making important and innovative contributions to the major debates (see Schuurman 1993; Crush 1995; Brass 1995).

The Rise of Marxist Development Theories The idea of ‘development’ was reborn in the period following the Second World War as the colonial powers began to pursue a more developmental approach to the administration of their overseas territories in Africa and Asia and the colonies themselves began to demand and achieve independence. In addition, the successes of the Marshall Plan in the regeneration of post-war Europe had demonstrated what could be achieved through state-directed economic growth strategies involving large injections of capital, which, it was suggested, would prove equally successful in the pursuit of development in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Such ideas of rapid progress and modernization were, thus, placed at the centre of Post-War international concerns and, consequently, a new inter-disciplinary interest in ‘development’ studies, based around the emerging idea of the ‘Third World,’ began to take form. The fundamental ideas about development that underpinned this new academic and political interest in the non-Western world were largely derived from two bodies of theory. The paradigm of the expanding capitalist nucleus emerged from the new development economics sub-discipline (based on the relations between discrete capi­ talist and traditional economic sectors; see Hunt 1989: 86-120) and structural func­ tionalist approaches to social and political theory (loosely-based on the application of theories of biological evolution to the analysis of human societies; see Peet 1991: 21-42). Common to both was the visualization of development (or ‘modernization’) as a universal linear process, along which all countries progressed through a series of stages from a traditional (or undeveloped) society to a modem (or developed) society; a transition largely predicated upon the experiences of Western nations. Modernization theorists, thus, looked to the historical experiences of the evolution of capitalism in the West to provide indications of which norms and institutions were likely to facilitate or impede development in the emerging states of the Third World. In sociology, authors such as Hoselitz (1960) utilized ideas drawn from Parsons’ (1951) reworking of classical sociological theories of social relations in idealized traditional and modem societies to produce a series of indices of modernization. It was argued that once these indices (or norms) had been adequately theorized, then modernization (or development) could be characterised as the progressive expansion of ‘modem’ social attributes and the erosion of those deemed ‘traditional’. The task for modernization theorists was, therefore, conceived as explaining how such social transformations occur, suggesting how they could be best facilitated and identifying those factors that impeded the process. In development economics, similar identify­ ing developmental characteristics were also searched for, and much early research in the field was devoted to identifying internal barriers to economic growth which were seen as impeding developing countries from following the same stages of economic modernization which had occurred in the industrialized world (see Box 3.3).

Unravelling the Web o f Theory

Box 3.3: Aspects of modernization theory The idea of a universal historical transition from a traditional (or undeveloped) society to a modem (or developed) society dominated the underlying conceptu­ alization of development during the immediate post-war decades. Two ways of envisioning this transition were particularly influential: Bert Hoselitz’s utiliza­ tion of Talcott Parson’s ‘Pattern Variables’ and Walt Rostow’s ‘Stages of Economic Growth’. Pattern Variables Sociological modernization theory owes much to Talcott Parsons’ (1951) theories of evolutionary social change that were based around the ideas of adaptive specialization and changing value systems. In particular, he proposed a series of dichotomous ‘pattern variables’ that, he argued, illustrated the contrasting values and social roles of individuals in idealized ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ societies. Bert Hoselitz (1960) was the most influential of a number of theorists who attempted to apply Parson’s variables more specifi­ cally to the analysis of development and underdevelopment. Hoselitz suggested that many aspects of Third World societies could be characterized as representing the ‘traditional’ social roles identified by Parsons. As such, it logically followed that development could be defined as the gradual erosion of those traditional roles and values and their replacement by those of a modem Western society. As shown in Figure B3.3a, he argued that there were four main lines of contrast between the types of social relations prevalent in ‘devel­ oped’ and ‘underdeveloped’ societies. For Hoselitz, therefore, underdeveloped countries are characterized by a low level of division of labour, poor social and geographical mobility and the over­ riding importance of kinship-ties and local customs. Developed countries, on the other hand, he claims enjoy a much more complex distribution of produc­ tive activity, more social mobility and greater opportunities for self advance­ ment through personal achievement (Hoselitz 1960: 60). Stages o f Economic Growth Economists also looked to Western history to provide them with models of economic development that could be applied in the Third World. The most influential of these was developed by Walt Rostow, an economic historian who was an adviser to the United States government during the Vietnam era. Based upon studies of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, he proposed the existence of specific stages to the achievement of a sustainable modern capitalist economy. All developing countries, he argued, could be located at one or other of these stages, which he identified as outlined in Table B3.3a. Similarly to the Parsonian pattern variables, Rostow’s model suggests common origins and goals to all societies. Here, however, the chief driving force of the evolutionary process is the economy and, in particular, the rate of


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Underdeveloped Societies

Developed Societies

Particularistic Norms Universalistic Norms The roles played by individuals in Developed societies are seen as rela­ tively universal in nature, being largely defined by objective criteria that could be fulfilled by anyone (e.g. salesman-client relations). Most social roles in Underdeveloped countries, on the other hand, are said to be defined in terms of the particular circumstances of individuals which are obviously not transferable (e.g. family relations etc.). Quality (Ascription) Performance (Achievement) Social roles within Underdeveloped societies are seen as chiefly depend­ ent upon the physical (non-achievable) attributes of individuals (class, age, gender etc.); whilst individual performance and achievement are assumed to have a much greater role in determining status within Developed societies. Functional Diffuseness Functional Specificity Social relations in Developed countries are said to be largely functionally specific, in that their content is clearly definable and delimited, reflecting a high level of division of labour. These types of roles are much less wide­ spread in Underdeveloped countries where an individual’s role within society is said to be more diffuse (reflecting a wide range of different dimensions - friendship, family roles etc.). Self Orientation Collective Orientation Hoselitz argues that Underdeveloped societies are characterized by a high level of personal self-interest (at least in terms of the attitudes of elites) in contrast to a more collective orientation in Developed countries. Interestingly, this reverses Parson’s own interpretation of this variable, in which he argued that it was Modern societies that exhibited more individu­ alistic traits (Larrain 1989:89). Source: adapted from Peet 1991:23 and Larrain 1989:89-91

Figure B3.3:

Contrasts between Underdeveloped and Developed societies as identified by Hoselitz

investment within it. Both models do, however, rather revealingly, focus on the appearance of an entrepreneurial elite as the key to the development process; Hoselitz seeing such a group as imperative in challenging the domination of society by custom and tradition and Rostow viewing them as the source of needed capital and economic dynamism. As Roxborough suggests,

Unravelling the Web o f Theory

Table B3.3: Rostow’s stages of economic growth Stage


Key characteristics


Traditional Society

A ‘natural’ state of undevelopment where society is dominated by agriculture. Very limited levels of productivity, undeveloped political institutions and fatalistic value systems.


Pre-Conditions for Take-Off

Development of new ideas (often through the influence of external powers), political constitution as a nation state, development of trade and economic infrastructure, expansion of education and the emergence of entrepreneurship.



Growth becomes a permanent feature of society as the old blocks to steady growth are removed, the rate of investment growth exceeds the population growth rate and industrial and agricultural production are rapidly mechanized.


Drive to Maturity

A long period representing the technification and modernization of more and more areas of the economy, the level of investment rises to between 10 and 20 per cent of national income, increasing levels of industrial diversification, and a growing presence in the international economy.


High Consumption

Orientation of the economy towards the mass production of consumer goods and the creation of large economic surpluses (leading to competing demands for consumption, welfare, military spending etc.).

Source: derived from Spybey 1992: 22; Rist 1997: 94-104; Larrain 1989: 96-97

this emphasis on entrepreneurship and capital accumulation is the single most pervasive theme in the literature on economic growth. It always appears as the lesson to be learnt from Western experience and to be mechanically applied to the rest of the world so that they can repeat the transition (Roxborough 1979: 16).

Even this focus upon entrepreneurial ambition, however, does not address one of the major problems with these types of simplistic and ahistorical linear


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models of development, the fact that it is never made sufficiently clear quite how nations are supposed to advance from one evolutionary stage to the next or, indeed, why such a transition might be expected to take place (Berberoglu 1992: 10). Such criticisms, moreover, highlight but one aspect of a much wider set of shortcomings which include: •

The theories’ insufficient recognition of: (i) the different circumstances facing developing countries compared to those Western countries had faced in their industrial development during previous decades; (ii) the considerable impacts of colonial history; and (iii) the divergent character­ istics and resource bases of individual countries (it is simply insufficient to amalgamate all non-Westem countries under the notion of ‘traditional society’) (Roxborough 1979: 15 and Larrain 1989: 100).

Failure to deal adequately with the relations between societies. Development is assumed, by and large, to be an endogenous process or, where external factors are given causal significance, they ‘seem to produce similar internal effects in all ... nations, directly and without any internal mediation’ (Larrain 1989: 101-2).

The Eurocentrism of assumptions that all societies will pass through the same historical stages and processes as Western countries; who, it should also be pointed out, often display considerable tendencies towards social roles that are supposedly characteristic of ‘traditional’ societies (Hettne 1995: 63).

For further discussions of these issues see Hunt (1989: 41-121); Hettne (1995: 21-75); Roxborough (1979: 13-41); Rist (1997: 93-108); Peet (1991: 21-42) and Larrain (1989: 87-102); or for the original authors themselves see Hoselitz (1960); Parsons (1951) and Rostow (1960). These essentially Eurocentric and ahistorical ideas had never been without their critics but it was not until Gunder Frank synthesized the regional work of Latin American structuralist economists with the global neo-Marxist analyses of Paul Baran (e.g. Baran 1957) and postulated ‘a model of underdevelopment’, that one could begin to talk of the articulation of an alternative body of theory (often termed Neo-Marxist or, more widely, dependency). Dependency theorists attacked modern­ ization perspectives for having virtually ignored the historical impact of colonialism and the inequitable nature of modem international economic relations, pointing out the very different economic circumstances facing developing countries compared to those that had existed in the development of industrial capitalism in the West (Frank 1966). They also challenged the assumption that Third World societies would progress through the same (or similar) stages that Western economies had in their transition towards modernity, arguing instead for a more historical and holistic approach such that ‘the diffusion of capital, technology and culture from the capital­ ist centre to the periphery should not be conceived of as an ahistorical, “disembodied” process taking place in a vacuum’ (Mouzelis 1988: 23-4).

Unravelling the Web o f Theory


Rather than blaming poverty, or lack of development, upon the traditional nature (or relative backwardness) of developing societies as modernization theorists had done, Frank argued that underdevelopment was an historical outcome of the func­ tioning of the international capitalist system; suggesting that the possibilities for development (or the lack of them) were conditioned, if not determined, by the ways in which individual countries had been integrated into that system. The main feature of this system was, he claimed, the unequal relationship between the countries of the core and the periphery; with the wealth and affluence of the former seen as histori­ cally dependent upon the exploitation of the latter. In this analysis, therefore, poverty and underdevelopment in the periphery were not seen as resulting from the traditional nature of such societies (or internal barriers to development) but, rather, from their position within an international capitalist system which, since their first incorporation, has plundered their resources and appropriated their economic surplus; perpetuating, as Frank (1969) called it, ‘the development of underdevelop­ ment’ through which such countries are condemned to economic stagnation (see Kay 1989; Larrain 1989). These ideas gained credence at a time when the global post-war economic boom was beginning to run out of steam and the continued existence (or even extension) of poverty in the Third World, despite two decades of rapid economic growth, was beginning to be recognized. In this context, the popularization of Frank’s ideas (and a growing engagement with a whole range of innovative theorizing about development emanating from the Latin American dependency school more widely - see Kay 1989) instigated a shift away from the search for internal obstacles to ‘development’ towards a more historically-informed consideration of the ‘dependent’ position of peripheral societies within the international capitalist system and the ways in which this had influenced the evolution of social relations and political institutions within such countries (see also Chapters 7 and 11). The emergence of dependency theory certainly revolutionized thinking about development. It provided an effective counter to the Eurocentric assumptions of modernization theory and enabled a radical politicization of the whole debate about development. Nevertheless, despite these advances, some of the ideas central to dependency analyses were themselves soon facing heavy criticism (Schuurman 1993). At an empirical level, for example, the stagnationist argument of the depend­ ency framework (that development efforts were doomed to failure given the position of developing countries in the international economy) was questioned by pointing to the economic advances that had been made in certain countries, as well as the lack of statistical evidence for surplus transfer (the chief mechanism said to underlie the transfer of resources from the periphery to the core). The most stringent attacks on the perspective, however, were more conceptual in focus, often originating from more orthodox Marxists who claimed that dependency theorists had misunderstood and hence misused Marxist analysis. Such critics argued that dependency analysts assumed rather than explained the causes of underdevelop­ ment (Weeks and Dore 1979); that they rarely had a very clear idea of exactly what they meant by the core ‘exploiting’ the periphery (Leys 1996: 15); and that their accounts of underdevelopment suffered from an unhelpful form of tautological reasoning - the reliance upon explanations already contained within the definitions of the terms employed (Larrain 1989: 188-89). Vandergeest and Buttel (1988: 684)


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illustrate this, pointing out how Frank defines underdevelopment as a lack of sustained industrial growth and yet, simultaneously, ascribes the causation of this underdevelopment to the same lack of sustained growth; a circular argument that leads nowhere. In a similar vein, Bernstein (1979) questioned the logical basis of Frank’s depiction of the historical relationship between the core and the periphery, suggesting that Frank’s definition of ‘real’ development (as opposed to the underde­ velopment of the periphery) as ‘self-sustaining and independent growth’ was at odds with his argument that development in the core had necessarily been built upon the exploitation of the periphery, hardly a self-sustaining process (Bernstein 1979: 92). One of the chief causes of these problems, the critics argued, was that Frank’s analyses of underdevelopment rested upon an unhelpfully vague definition of capital­ ism as any economic system characterized by market relations and commodity production. Authors such as Laclau (1971) and Brenner (1977) argued that this robbed the concept of capitalism of its explanatory power and historical significance, since most societies had, at least to a certain degree, participated in market relations since Roman times (see also Weeks and Dore 1979: 65). Instead they insisted that, as had been argued by Marx (1973; 1976), that capitalism was better defined not in terms of the forms of commodity circulation it involved, but rather as a particular mode o f production encompassing specific relations of production (namely the sepa­ ration of direct producers from ownership of the means of production through the commodification of land and labour). The emphases upon circulation within Frank’s dependency theory also had the effect of limiting the specificity of analysis and inducing an over-reliance on broad and sweeping generalizations. If the problems of underdevelopment were seen to reside, ultimately, in the workings of the international economy and the extraction of surplus from the periphery, then dependency perspectives were bound to focus upon the functioning of that ‘system’ in search of a global explanation for underdevelop­ ment. Such endeavours would always face the problems of over-generalization and over-simplification. This was unfortunate because the historically-sensitive nature of dependency approaches could logically have allowed for the identification of histori­ cally specific incidences of dependency in particular forms in different places. As Mouzelis argues: From the neo-Marxist point of view, the process of diffusion is understandable only if located within a matrix of domination/subordination relationships ... operating at both the national and the international level... One would expect as a logical outcome ... a research strategy ... that ceases to treat the Third World in blanket fashion and draws attention to the enormous complexity and variation of the various countries of the so-called Third World. Instead of this, the neo-Marxist dependency tradition has proffered a plethora of theories which; in their attempts to account for the development or lack of development of the Third World as a whole, repeat some of the very mistakes that the neo-evolutionists committed in the early fifties (Mouzelis 1988: 26).

Dependency theories were also criticized for being overly economistic; with class relations, the nature and dynamics of the state and the evolution of political ideas in the periphery all seen as fundamentally determined by the changing needs of metro­ politan capital accumulation. Frank, in his later works, went some way toward meeting these criticisms by claiming that his work was meant to complement class

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analysis rather than replace it. However, as Larrain (1989) argues, on the one hand Frank tries to re-emphasize the agency of distinct classes in the determination of historical processes but, on the other, he maintains that class practices are still funda­ mentally determined by the structural dependence of peripheral countries upon the core. Finally, critics also questioned the political conclusions that seemed to emerge from the basic logic of dependency analyses - that the only possibility for develop­ ment rested in withdrawing from the international economy and pursuing a more autarchic approach. Frank’s advocation of this political strategy was based upon his analyses of the factors that had enabled the dramatic growth of the Japanese economy in the twentieth century and the economic progress which had been made in certain Latin American countries during the two wars and the Great Depression when their links to the global economy had been particularly limited. Frank’s interpretation of those experiences, however, ignored the importance of locally-specific factors in determining those trends and was unable to explain how economic growth had been achieved by the South East Asian ‘Tiger’ economies under very different interna­ tional conditions during the post war period (Corbridge 1986; see also Chapter 7). The somewhat more flexible World Systems approach of Wallerstein (1974) went some way toward modifying the Frankian approach to enable it to more successfully account for those successes, through the addition of what he termed the semi-periph­ ery to Frank’s dualistic core-periphery model. Before briefly considering some of the directions in which the Marxist critique of dependency was to lead, it should be noted that the arguments advanced above have not gone uncontested. It has been suggested, for example, that much of the critique relies on a deliberately over-generalized account of dependency (often based around a loose reading of Frank’s work) that fails to acknowledge the breadth of approaches to be found within the perspective (see Box 3.4).

Box 3.4: Varieties of dependency analysis Since its heyday in the early 1970s, ‘dependency theory’ has been one of the most heavily critiqued theoretical perspectives on development. Many of the charges of over-generalization and circular reasoning have, however, been developed on the basis of a particularly deterministic and mechanical version of dependency writings, loosely based on the work of Gunder Frank. This reading of dependency has been used to construct an indefensible ‘straw man’ which can then be easily invalidated. More recently, however, there have been a number of attempts to re-evaluate the contribution of the ‘dependentistas' to the study of development. First it has been claimed that dependency analyses did not seek to offer a coherent theoretical framework for the study of development, but simply aimed to rectify an analytical imbalance whereby the constraints imposed on ‘devel­ oping’ countries by their experiences under colonialism and their position in international divisions of labour were not acknowledged. Whilst the theoretical


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limitations of dependency analysis are relatively clear, the important advances in understanding generated at the time should not be forgotten. Second, the writings of dependency analysts are so diverse that it makes little sense to lump them all together. Recent contributors have, for instance, differentiated between: systematic models of ‘the development of underdevelopment’ proposed by Frank, and also apparent in the writings of Amin, Wallerstein and Emmanuel; and analyses of concrete situations where dependency is employed as a framework for assessing the differential impacts of colonialism, interna­ tional economic relations and the spread of transnational capital upon the productive forms, social relations and political systems of the periphery (see Kay 1989, Lehmann 1990, Larrain 1989 and Palma 1989). The central issues are explained well by Mouzelis (1988) who argues that there is nothing inherently wrong with examining changing global inter-rela­ tions, but problems arise when crude generalizations are made about ‘neces­ sary’ outcomes: When one shifts the focus of analysis from the world system to the Third World, ... theories which do not go beyond the periphery/ semi periphery dichotomy ... soon run into difficulties ... Thus dependency theory, in so far as it tries to create a general theory about the Third World without taking variations into account, cannot escape the fate of all contextless, universalistic theorizing in the social sciences (Mouzelis 1988: 28).

At the same time, however, there is equal danger in empty rhetorical state­ ments about the complexity and uniqueness of the individual circumstances of each nation, social formation or locality. Untheorized empirical investigations offer the same dead ends. What is needed is ‘the hard, painstaking, macrohistorical, comparative work required for translating such statements into concrete analyses’ (Mouzelis 1988: 28). Whether less deterministic strands of dependency theory could be of use in informing such research remains a point of controversy, with many commentators seemingly content to reject all forms of dependency analyses (see Booth 1985; Vandergeest and Buttel 1988; Corbridge 1990). Whilst dependency theory has faded from fashion in radical circles in the West, in Latin America it, “has not been rejected but rather situated in its time as a necessary and fruitful critique of both modernization theory and the erst­ while strategies of the Communist Parties of Latin America” (Slater 1993: 429). In the years following its emergence, a wide and varied literature has appeared (see Kay 1989) which recognises its deficiencies but also stresses that it was, an intellectual/political movement... which argued, wrote and theorized back. This was the significance of dependencia and the fact that associated modes of reflection emerged in other parts of the South during the same years ... In the encompassing context of North-South relations, the dependency writers constructed and deployed a geopolitical imagination which sought to prioritize

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the objectives of autonomy and difference and to break the subordinating effects of metropolis-satellite relations. To the Western mind inculcated in the Cartesian tradition, ‘dependency’ seemed little more than a vague discontent, but in actual fact it was a key body of alternative critical thought (Slater 1993: 430).

The perceived inadequacies of the dependency framework stimulated an increas­ ing engagement with a variety of other Marxist perspectives during the 1970s and early 1980s. Warren (1980) was perhaps the most extreme Marxist critic of depend­ ency, arguing strongly for a return to what he saw as Marx’s original emphasis on capitalism as an emancipatory, rather than a regressive, economic system; suggesting that whilst capitalism would eventually collapse under the weight of its own contra­ dictions, there could be no socialist substitute for the capitalist stage of development. Warren saw Frank’s depiction of capitalism imposing economic stagnation and ‘underdevelopment’ in the periphery as dangerously naive and, in contrast, argued that the spread of capitalist relations had, in fact, produced impressive levels of indus­ trialization in many developing countries during the post-war years (Martinussen 1997). Warren suggested that where poverty and underdevelopment had persisted this was related to the perseverance of pre-capitalist social relations and a lack of capital­ ist development. Although Warren’s work was welcomed by some for its attack on the more simplistic assumptions of dependency theory, it was quickly recognized to be as ahistorical as the accounts it so vigorously denounced. At the very least, the dependistas’ critique of modernization had established that the problems of underdevelopment could not simply be expressed as the failure of capitalism to take root in developing countries which, in essence, was Warren’s argument. Conversely, other Marxist scholars argued that underdevelopment was related to the perseverance of pre-capitalist social relations but developed explanations of much greater theoretical complexity than those of Warren, drawing in large part from the structural Marxism of Althusser (e.g. Larrain 1989; see also Chapter 2). These theo­ rists, whilst recognizing many of the problems identified by dependency analyses, saw these as reflecting, not some global process of exploitation, but rather specific ‘articulations’ of the capitalist mode of production with a diverse range of pre-capital­ ist ones. This modes o f production school of thought suggested that, under certain conditions, the survival of pre-capitalist forms was actually functional to the needs of local capitalist accumulation, thereby warping the processes of development and in some cases promoting stagnation (Hettne 1995). One of the main advances of this approach was that it shifted attention away from global theorizing towards national and local-scale studies of the articulation of modes of production and the historical processes which underlay underdevelopment (Ruccio and Simon 1986). This, at least to a certain degree, moved beyond the idea of a ‘normal’ development path present in most theories of dependency and in Warren’s work, whilst also allowing analysis encompassing both global and national issues (Kiely 1995: 62). Debates arose, for example, concerning the different ways in which individual pre-capitalist modes of production co-existed with the capitalist, and how functional the former were to the latter although this arguably did result in an unhelp­ ful proliferation of separately identifiable pre-capitalist modes, to the extent that every society seemed to have its own mode (see Foster-Carter 1978).


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What set the modes of production school apart from the neo-Marxism of Frank et a l was the centring of analysis upon production and class relations rather than the sphere of circulation, and on the national level rather then the global (although the importance of international factors was recognized). This rejuvenated Marxism intro­ duced a theoretical rigour to the study of development that was based upon a more detailed conceptualization of the structures of individual societies and the ways in which they are transformed. It also offered the possibility for much more informed and sensitive political analyses of the prospects for local opportunities and struggles (Corbridge 1986). A further strand of Marxist theory, like that of Warren, recognized that industri­ alization had occurred in particular parts of the Third World (especially since the 1960s), but was much less dismissive of the claims of dependency theorists about the nature of that industrial development. Particularly associated with the work of Frobel and his associates (see Frobel et a l 1980), these theorists attempted to interpret dependent development through the nexus of international class analysis, rather than the sphere of circulation. In this way they suggested the existence of a New International Division o f Labour (NIDL) which, they argued, could explain the development of the Asian Newly Industrialised Countries (NICs). Such ideas, through their underlying depiction of the changing needs and activities of interna­ tional capital as the determining factors, lay open, however, to many of the criti­ cisms levelled against dependency theories (see Jenkins 1987; Kiely 1995). Whilst there were certainly different emphases and sharp divisions of opinion (as detailed in the preceding discussions), taken together Marxist and dependency perspectives certainly revolutionized the way in which studies of development were approached. They offered a range of concepts that allowed development issues to be much more effectively analyzed in their historical contexts. They also produced much more helpful theories of the dynam ics of the international economy and how its structures affected the developmental trajectories of coun­ tries which found themselves in contrasting positions within it. Furthermore, other elements of the Marxian heritage offered important insights into questions of geopolitical power, of the nature and dynamics of the nation state and of what might be unique about capitalism as a mode of production and how it related to ideas of progress. All of this produced some important and innovative work that certainly succeeded in placing themes concerning poverty, exploitation and inequality at the centre of analyses of development.

Neo-Liberal Restructuring and the Crisis in Critical Development Theory Part One: The Neo-Liberal Counter-Revolution Whilst the critical engagement with dependency and other Marxist approaches certainly produced a range of more innovative approaches to development issues, it only had a limited impact upon official (or mainstream) thinking about development within the ‘development community’ (the international financial institutions, other international agencies and non-governmental organizations and the majority of national governments). Here, the imprint of modernization perspectives remained

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clearly visible, although there were some modifications during the course of the 1960s and 1970s as some of the radical critique considered earlier filtered through. As Leys explains, even the international ‘development community’ felt obliged to accommodate some of its (dependency) perspectives: for instance, the International Labour Office’s 1972 call for ‘Redistribution with Growth’ and the World Bank’s adoption in 1973 of the principle of meeting ‘Basic Needs’ were both influenced by the (unacknowledged) impact of depend­ ency thinking (Leys 1996: 11-12).

All of this was, however, to change rapidly in the 1980s when something of a theoret­ ical impasse began to be recognized both within mainstream development thinking and amongst its more radical critics (Schuurman 1993). To a certain degree, this reflected the economic depression that had hit the international economy at the end of the 1970s and its massive impact upon particular regions of the developing world, notably Latin America and Africa. Indeed, the economic and social effects of this were so intense that the 1980s are frequently referred to as the Lost Development Decade within these regions (see Box 3.5). Although the severity of these economic circumstances did, to a certain degree, validate some dependency and other, nonWarrenite, Marxist critiques of post-war development strategies, it also starkly revealed a worrying lack of concrete proposals for responding to the crisis. At the same time, it was becoming increasingly apparent that the existing schools of modernisation thought were largely unable to address the increasing diversity of Third World countries’ experiences; whilst the highly fractious debates on aspects of Marxist theory that dominated the more radical literature seemed to bear little rele­ vance to increasingly desperate struggles for economic survival.

Box 3.5: The Lost Development Decade: The crisis of the 1980s Large parts of the Third World ran into deep economic problems during the international depression of the early 1980s. These problems were so severe, and represented such a reversal in ‘developmental fortunes’, that the 1980s have often been termed the ‘Lost Development Decade’. This economic down­ turn reflected massive changes in the world economy, including: a collapse in Western demand, leading to declining prices for many developing countries’ exports and negative shifts in their overall terms of trade; the oil price hikes of the 1970s; and changes in the economic policies of Western governments, particularly through the significant raising of interest rates. All of this led to increasing ‘Balance of Payments’ problems for many Third World countries, massive increases in debt repayments within a context of declining national revenues and the virtual disappearance of new sources of finance. The combi­ nation of these factors left the economies of many countries on the brink of collapse. In some senses, this economic crisis represented the final debunking of the idea of a recognizable Third World with common features and interests, in that, despite the global nature of the economic downturn, it was the regions of Latin America and Africa that were worst afflicted, whilst Asia remained

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relatively unaffected. The huge financial impact of the crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa can be seen clearly from Table B3.5.

Table B3.5 Macro-economic indicators in sub-Saharan Africa Economic indicator

GDP Agriculture Industry (Manufacturing) Services Government Consumption Private Consumption Gross Domestic Investment Exports Imports

Annual percentage changes 1965-1980 1980-1986 5.6 1.6 9.4 (8.5) 7.5 8.1 4.9 8.8 6.6 19.5

- 0 .0 - 1.2 -1 .5 (0.3) 0.1 - 1.0 0.7 -9 .3 -2 .1 - 7 .7

Source: Ghai and Hewitt de Alcantara 1990: 17, Table 2.2

Latin America was also hit severely, with the overall standard of living in many countries returning to 1960s levels. Real per capita gross domestic produce (GDP) declined by 7 % across the region between 1980 and 1988, although that figure hides the fact that the decline was as much as 20 % in several countries. The Terms of Trade turned against the region by an estimated 22 % during the same period, whilst there were also massive falls in the levels of investment (and in the flow of other financial resources to the region), increasing unem­ ployment levels and, perhaps most importantly, given the existing patterns of wealth and income distribution, a marked increase in inequality (Ghai and Hewitt de Alcantara 1990: 19-21). The overall impact of the crisis is effectively summarized in the two quotes which follow: By the end of the 1980s, the total debt of developing countries was over US$ 1,100 billion. As a result of this huge debt, the drive towards industrialization and economic restructuring for long-term development came to a halt in many countries. Instead, there ensued a desperate struggle to find resources to meet the short-term goal of debt repayment. As well as shaking the world financial system, the ‘debt crisis’ has also had serious repercussions for social and economic devel­ opment in most of the Third World (Gibson and Tsakalotos 1992: 41). [F]or Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, the 1980s became a disastrous decade and the subcontinent rapidly acquired the character of a marginalized Fourth World, increasingly recognized as requiring special action and special criteria. The other true part of this sad story is that the decade was ‘lost’ to development in the sense that attention shifted to debt settlement, stabilization, adjustment, struc­ tural change, liberalization etc. - often at the expense of everything that had

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previously been understood as development, whether growth, employment, redistribution, basic needs or reduction of poverty (Singer 1989: 46).

Whilst these two quotes clearly illustrate the severity of the crisis effectively, they also point to a sea change in attitudes towards development which accom­ panied it. The ensuing international reaction reflected the dominance of neo­ liberal interpretations of the causes of the crisis, whereby stress was placed upon domestic economic mismanagement and corruption which, it was claimed, left many developing economies unable to deal with unfavourable external tendencies. Whilst there is some truth in such charges they also served to draw attention away from the need for more systematic international action to address the disastrous external economic climate over which developing country governments certainly had little control.

Such factors enabled a very different set of ideas to come to dominate official development thinking in a process frequently referred to as the neo-liberal counter­ revolution in development theory and policy (Toye 1987). This counter-revolution shared some of the criticisms that Marxist and dependency theorists had made of post-war development policies but proffered starkly contrasting explanations for development ‘failures’ and suggestions as to how they might be overcome. The neo­ liberal position argued that the whole idea of bringing about development through directed state interventions within society was fundamentally misplaced and that development would only be achieved through the pursuit of free competition and the prioritization of market mechanisms: in effect a restatement of the universal applica­ bility of neo-classical economics (Martinussen 1997). In some senses, these ideas were stark expressions of the more simplistic components of modernization theories, although the policy direction that led from these analyses was radically different (see Brohmann 1995). The consolidation of such perspectives on the international stage was rapid. The late 1970s and early 1980s saw the election of Western governments committed to radical neo-liberal agendas and, under their influence, individuals holding such ideas came to dominate major international financial institutions and eventually the major­ ity of national governments and other sectors of the development industry (see Escobar 1995). Within neo-liberal analyses, development issues became largely reduced to the imperative of ‘getting economics right’ which was translated into reducing state intervention to a bare minimum, liberalizing national and international markets and prioritizing the export sector (see also Chapter 12). More theoretical discussions of the workings of the international economy or the nature of individual societies became largely limited to the search for impediments that might serve to stop the spread of free market relations. As such, any Marxist-inspired discussions of exploitation or the structural causes of underdevelopment were viewed as irrelevant, although wide-ranging critiques of the social, political and environmental costs of neo-liberal policies did emerge (Rich 1994; Green 1995; Veltmeyer et a l 1997). To a certain extent, these developments destabilised what had been a more or less general consensus on basic development concepts (to use Martinussen’s terminology from Box 3.2). Up until the economic crisis of the late 1970s, the majority of devel­


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opment theorists, practitioners and planners had conceived of development in terms of a series of policies developed by nation states (or promulgated by international agencies) to meet a series of widely-defined development objectives. This meant that whilst Marxist and dependency positions on development never had a particularly direct influence on policy formation, and certainly did not have the impact claimed for them by critics such as Toye (1987: 115), some of the issues they pinpointed as underlying the failures of development efforts did at least filter into policy debates. The consolidation of neo-liberalism as the dominant development discourse within the international institutions since the 1980s broke this consensus, promoting a much more limited econocentric idea of development and underplaying the poten­ tial role of directed social and economic transformation. What is, admittedly, still referred to as development is, in many senses, really simply the application of what are seen as ‘correct’ economic policies. The talk in Economics Ministries and the international financial organizations today, is not about the choice of a national devel­ opment strategy but rather simply about ‘appropriate’ economic management. Any remaining commitments to longer-term development objectives have frequently been lost within rhetoric that calls for developing countries to adjust to the realities of international markets through liberalization, privatization and export promotion. As Leys puts it, it is hardly too much to say that by the end of the 1980s the only development policy that was officially approved was not to have one - to leave it to the market to allocate resources, not the state (Leys 1996: 24).

It is, however, important not to paint too monolithic a picture of neo-liberal ideas on development and the policies that have been formulated from them. It is clear, for example, that the nature of the policies ‘recommended’ by international financial institutions has altered over the years, as critiques of the impact of the Structural Adjustment Programmes (see Box 3. 6, and also Chapter 4) through which neo-liberal ideas were often implemented, have been responded to. This has led the World Bank to progressively re-introduce policies designed to alleviate the worst effects of poverty (‘tack-on’ social programmes), induce ‘good governance’ (through decen­ tralization for example), or take environmental considerations into account. In essence, however, these could simply be viewed as ‘add-ons’ designed to ameliorate the social, political or environmental implications enduced through the pursuit of unfettered market liberalization. As expressed by Moore, theoretical and political jostling over such issues as sustainable development, state and/or market-led economic policies, and participation (or ‘democratic governance’) will take up much of the public stage. The World Bank, the IMF and their lesser kin will appear to take pragmatic and consensual approaches to their hearts ... but will rest assured that their real neo-liberal agenda remains intact (Moore 1995: 16).

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Box 3.6: Structural Adjustment Programmes During the 1980s the impacts of the debt crisis saw a marked transformation in the operations of the international financial organizations in the Third World. Firstly, they became the most important provider of financial resources to the developing world and, secondly, the balance of their guiding principles shifted from professed developmental goals towards protecting the integrity of the global financial system and guaranteeing interest payments. These changes significantly enhanced the global power of these institutions who became a major influence in the promulgation of neo-liberal free market ideas across the globe. This was largely achieved through the application of ‘conditions’ (reflecting the adoption of neo-liberal policies) which borrowers had to comply with in order to gain access to funding. In the case of the World Bank, these conditions took the form of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs). These programmes (supposedly developed in tandem with borrower governments) were presented as a means of responding to the economic crisis and re-establishing growth and develop­ ment in the developing world on a new footing. The policies reflected the Bank’s adherence to neo-liberal analyses which stressed the role of internal mismanagement in the genesis of the crisis (e.g. see the Berg Report on the causes of economic crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa; World Bank 1981) and were designed to reorientate the economies of developing countries towards the international market place through liberalization, export promotion and the dismantling of the regulative and productive role of the state. More specifi­ cally, most SAPs have been made up of the major components identified in Table B3.6a, although it should be noted that the balance of elements has shifted somewhat over time.

Table B3.6: Major policy strategies and instruments of Structural Adjustment Programmes Policy Strategies Stabilization


The establishment of macro-economic equilibrium (in terms of the international balance of payments) and the righting of relative prices (in particular through the ending of inflation­ ary pressures). Stabilization has often tended to occur as a separate shorter-term initial stage, before the longer-term adjustment process is embarked upon. An emphasis upon the selling of state interests in individual companies or the privatization of previously publicly-owned utilities. In some cases this has led to a markedly increased concentration of company ownership and/or greatly


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enhanced levels of foreign ownership (as well as several major instances of corruption). Liberalization Measures designed to open the economy to international trade. Restrictions on imports are normally lifted; the currency is often devalued to enhance the profitability of exporters and any protection of internal markets is removed. Deregulation The removal of restrictions on the economic activities of individuals and the drastic reduction of state intervention within the general running of the economy. Fiscal Austerity The reduction of government budget deficits through such measures as the laying off of public sector workers, cuts in the provision of public services and tax system reforms.

Policy Instruments Most programmes will include some of the following

mass public sector redundancies currency devaluation abolition of price controls and reform of interest rates severe restrictions on credit provision withdrawal of subsidies stringent cuts in public spending privatization of public utilities reduction or abolition of import tariffs and quotas improved provision of export incentives and reduction in export taxes introduction or raising of fees for public services elimination of foreign investment controls deregulation of labour markets

Sources: Veltmeyer, Petras and Vieux 1997; Pio 1992; Taylor 1997

From the perspective of the World Bank, the combination of these measures represent the best chance for economic recovery through their encouragement of economic efficiency, adjustment to changes in the international economy and the raising of productivity (more cynical observers might also add the guar­ anteeing of debt interest payments to that list). The obvious question is, ‘has it worked?’ Debate about the impacts of SAPs has been widespread and fierce. Most SAP supporters, and the World Bank itself, have focused upon the overall economic record of adjusting countries, claiming that they have outperformed non-adjusting countries. Others have, however, questioned the figures upon which such analyses are based, as well as whether it is the simple access to funding, rather than the policies implemented, that has produced any improve­ ments noted (see Gibbon 1996).

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Most criticism of SAPs has, however, not focused on their overall economic successes and failures but on the costs associated with their implementation (see Pio 1992). The packages include many policies (e.g. cuts in food subsidies, rises in the costs of public utilities and reductions in the coverage of social programmes) which worsen the precarious position of the poorest and most marginalized sectors, significantly intensifying the levels of income inequality. Questions have also been raised about their environmental impacts and the wider international geopolitical implications of SAPs for North-South relations and questions of national sovereignty (Ghai 1994). Finally, there has also been a wide-ranging debate about the relationship between economic liberalization of this type and democratic reform, political participation and the role of the state (Bienefeld 1995). Whatever one’s view on the issues raised, the interna­ tional financial institutions have certainly been forced into responding to some of the criticisms - although their basic policy stance has remained relatively unaltered (see Kiely 1998b).

Whilst neo-liberal ideas have not taken hold to any great extent in geographical studies of development (although see Auty 1995), it should be obvious from this brief account that they are important to understand since they now have a pervasive influ­ ence on how development problems are viewed in other academic disciplines (espe­ cially economics), provide illustrations of the importance of effective financial management, and have been instrumental in promulgating many recent global trans­ formations via encouragement of privatization, liberalization, deregulation and inte­ gration. This last point is important because globalization is often seen as something just happening ‘out there,’ an objective natural process as it were. However, for processes of globalization to occur, favourable conditions have to be created via global and national agreement, legislation and so on. In this sense, neo-liberalism is the often obscured ideological core of globalization. Part Two: The Impasse in Marxist Development Theory The consolidation of neo-liberalism on the international stage has not gone uncon­ tested: neither, practically, in terms of the development of alternative policy frameworks and specific critiques of the impacts of neo-liberal policies; nor conceptually, in terms of challenging the basis of neo-liberal thought. The crisis in development thought that accompanied, and indeed in some senses made possible, the rise of neo-liberalism has, however, problematised such efforts and the whole corpus of more ‘critical’ develop­ ment theory continues to be characterized as facing something of a ‘crisis’ (Hettne 1995) or ‘impasse’ (Schuurman 1993). Politically, the rapid restructuring of the global economy and the hegemony of neo-liberal policy frameworks have served to dramati­ cally limit the spaces open for the articulation of alternatives (although there have been some changes in neo-liberal policies in response to critiques); whilst, whatever their productive and moral limitations, the collapse of the ‘actually existing’ socialist nations of the Eastern Block also resulted in the removal of important sources of ideological and financial support for alternative development strategies.


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Within conceptual studies there has also been an intense and wide-ranging critique of the previously dominant Marxist approaches to development considered in the previous section. This critique has, amongst other charges, accused Marxist develop­ ment theory of: (i) lacking policy relevance; (ii) paying insufficient attention to femi­ nist criticisms of the ‘gender-blindness’ of many Marxist positions (and, more generally, ignoring the insights offered by alternative, non-Marxist, critical analyses); (iii) working at an overly abstract and general level of analysis; (iv) exhibiting an over-arching economism; and (v) being unable to cope with the rapidly changing and increasingly global context of the 1990s (see Booth 1985, 1994; Edwards 1989, 1994; Marchand and Parpart 1995; Corbridge 1986, 1990; Schuurman 1993). There is not the space here to go into all of the different dimensions of this critique, and the following discussion is therefore, by necessity, brief and partial. I make little direct mention of, for example, some important ways in which the development debate has been transformed over recent years through engagements with feminist theory (although many aspects of postmodern development theory discussed below does owe much to these literatures; see Parpart and Marchand 1995) nor the interac­ tion between Marxist theory and environmental/sustainable development literatures (see Adams 1993; Eckersley 1992; O’Connor 1997; Pepper 1993, 1996; Redclift 1984, 1987; Phillips and Mighall, 2000). Instead, the chapter will look at the broad theoretical critiques of Marxist analyses of development and the work that has stemmed from it. Perhaps the most influential expression of the doubts regarding Marxist approaches to development was Booth (1985), which spawned a heated debate (here­ after referred to as the impasse debate) on the applicability and coherence of Marxist approaches to development (see Sklair 1988; Mouzelis 1988; Vandergeest and Buttel 1988; Corbridge 1989, 1990; Schuurman 1993; Booth 1994). The central thrust of Booth’s initial article was that Marxist development theories, both in their ‘classical Marxist’ and ‘neo-Marxist’ varieties, have a ‘metatheoretical commitment to demon­ strating that what happens in societies in the era of capitalism is not only explicable, but also in some stronger sense necessary’ (Booth 1985: 773). This suggests that what happens in individual societies is comprehendable, and indeed in some senses predictable, from within Marxist theory, so long as a ‘proper’ understanding of the functioning of the laws of the capitalist mode of production is adopted. If this is done, so it is argued, then one can ‘read off’ significant aspects of individual economies and social formations from generalized laws of how capitalism works (Booth 1985: 773). This intrinsic commitment to defining the mechanisms of social change in terms of the functioning of a range of abstract and universal laws of capitalism that operate, albeit differentially, across countries with widely divergent histories and cultures, was for Booth (1985: 774) the root inadequacy of Marxism as a conceptual frame­ work. It inevitably leads, he argued, to an over-concentration upon the explanatory power of economic factors, which left Marxism unable to deal with cultural differ­ ence or political power without reducing them to epiphenomena of economic struc­ tures (see also Chapter 2 on critiques of Marxist structuralism). This has, it is claimed, left Marxism ill equipped to deal with the complexities of social change. These types of arguments, together with the broader criticisms of the lack of policy relevance of Marxist analysis, led to attempts to articulate new directions for critical development research that might be less deterministic and less economistic. For

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Booth this did not necessarily mean the abandonment of Marxist approaches to devel­ opment per se. Rather, as he commented in his original article: Development ... does not need to be purged wholesale of questions and lower-order concepts derived from Marx, but specifically of abstract entities conceived as having ‘necessary effects inscribed in their structure’ or as being endowed with the capacity to shape socio-economic relations in accordance with their needs. Curiosity about the way the world is the way it is, and how it may be changed, must be freed not from Marxism but from Marxism’s ulterior interest in proving that within given limits the world has to be the way it is (Booth 1985:777).

Hence much of the work spawned by the impasse debate whilst attempting to break from Marxist tradition, has continued to work within political economy frameworks that owe much to Marxist concepts and methodologies. Such ‘post-Marxist’ work has taken several forms. The main tendency has been to shift attention away from general theories about the operation of capitalism or processes of development towards a focus on the diversity of experiences at national, regional and local levels. This has led to a proliferation of empirical, localized and, to a lesser degree, comparative research with a view to constructing ‘middle range’ theories sensitive to the immense diversity of situations in individual countries (Kiely 1995: 74; Vandergeest and Buttel 1988; Mouzelis 1988; see also discussion in Chapter 2 on ‘middling Marxisms’). Whilst this is an advance on research that had tried to ‘fit’ individual experiences into pre-defined global explanations, as Booth himself acknowledges, it does not neces­ sarily lead to the articulation of less deterministic theoretical positions: We face the danger that social researchers, disillusioned with the old theoretical certainties and perhaps also a little intoxicated by their renewed immersion in an ever-surprising empirical reality, will become very good at producing detailed case studies but rather bad at communicating the general implications of their work to a wider academic audience, not to speak of a wider public of development practitioners (Booth 1993, 59).

The issue here is the relationship between structures and agency which is, in essence, what the whole impasse debate has been about. The local-level of much recent work has implicitly or explicitly often emphasized human agency over structure, a position which is, for instance, reflected strongly in advocations of an ‘actor-oriented’ sociol­ ogy of development (see Long and Van der Ploeg 1994; Long and Villarreal 1993; Long and Long 1992; and also Box 2.10 on ‘Actor-network theory’). This approach, whilst recognizing ‘the interplay and mutual determination of “internal” and “exter­ nal” factors and relationships’ is, nonetheless, most decidedly focused upon the micro or local level where the main emphasis is placed upon providing ‘accounts of the lifeworlds, strategies and rationalities of the different social actors involved’ (Long and Villarreal 1993: 141). The approach arguably does little more than repeat the prob­ lems of structural determinacy in reverse. Booth, for example, argues that: Long and van der Ploeg ... vigorously refute the suggestion that their approach implies a neglect of the contexts of action. Nevertheless, today as in the past most local studies remain determinedly micro in both senses, the wider context being allowed to escape from view in a way that is disturbingly reminiscent of the bad old days of functionalist anthropol­ ogy [and, I might add, of geography’s regional descriptive phase] (Booth 1994: 18).


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Such concerns have also been central to certain Marxist counter-critiques of the ‘impasse’ literature, which criticize the empiricism, abandonment of theory and prioritizing of agency over structure that they see characterizing much recent research. The reactions of Marxists to Booth’s critique have, however, been more varied than this argument would suggest. Some responses have been relatively open and have made important contributions to the emerging debates. Others, however, have been more defensive. Tom Brass (1995) in his stinging review of Schuurman (1993) and Booth (1994) perhaps most exemplifies this reaction. Whilst Brass does make some important points about the sometimes unhelpful way in which Marxism has been portrayed in the ‘impasse debate’ (correctly pointing out that ‘it is quite simply untrue that in a general sense Marxism adheres to a concept of an unproblematically unilinear determination of the political and ideological by the economic’ (Brass 1995: 523)), he fails to illustrate how different Marxist traditions have dealt with those relationships. Many of his comments are either simply petty (as in his accussation that Stuart Corbridge’s writing is ‘largely content free’ and ‘fogeyish’ (p. 519)) or unhelpfully vindictive (he terms the ‘impasse debate’ as ‘self-styled, self­ serving, eclectic, contradictory and largely irrelevant’ (p. 517)). Others, thankfully, have been more thoughtful in their responses. Some have attempted to defend the existing schools of Marxist analysis, as in Larrain’s (1989) thoughtful reconsideration of dependency theory and Peet’s (1991) (at least partial) defence of the structural Marxism of the modes of production school (Peet 1991). Others have pointed out, somewhat ironically, that the historical-comparative method that has evolved out of the issues raised in the impasse debate is precisely the type of approach that many Marxists have long been advocating for development research anyway. This is not to suggest, however, that all Marxists have been dismissive of the issues raised through the impasse debate. Some certainly share a sense of unease about the ways in which Marxism has been applied to development debates, but suggest that, more widely, Marxist approaches have never been reducible to a set of ‘laws’ about societal development. They direct our attention towards other, often rather neglected, traditions of thought within Marxism that appear less econocentric and less determin­ istic, pointing out that many of the objections raised within the impasse debate actually been long recognised within these Marxist traditions. As Resnick and Wolf comment: Long before post-Marxism arrived and since, Marxists have intensely debated among themselves the merits and acceptability of classical Marxism and its alternatives within the Marxist tradition. Classical Marxism was never the only interpretation within the tradition (Resnick and Wolff 1992: 131).

The Marxist literature on development has, however, been heavily biased towards the more structural versions of Marxism in which little room has been left for the role of human beings in producing social change. Ironically, Althusser’s structuralist Marxism, which has been so influential in Marxist development theory (and is essen­ tially the caricature of Marxism portrayed by Booth) was, through the idea of the relative autonomy of the political sphere, an attempt to escape from the economism of previous formulations of Marxism. For Althusser, the economy is not meant to deter­ mine political forms, but only sets the limits as to what is possible in the ‘last

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instance’ and, as Althusser himself suggests, ‘the lonely hour of the last instance’, in fact, ‘never comes (cited in Resnick and Wolff 1992: 132). As Kiely (1995) argues, problems remain because, despite attempts to de-economize Marxism, structural Marxists still tend to look for an over-arching theory of development within which social phenomena are interpreted (albeit in the last instance) as reflecting their func­ tionality for capitalism rather than the struggles of agents within society. Kiely, then, ends up agreeing with Booth’s charges of ‘necessitism’ in the sense that structural schools of Marxist development theory persist in constructing overar­ ching models of development and underdevelopment (or the functioning of capital­ ism) that bear little relation to the actual experiences of agents in the real world. Nevertheless, he also criticizes those approaches that have reacted to this structural determinacy by stressing the absolute autonomy of agents from those structures. Instead of this false choice between general determinism or complete autonomy, he suggests that what is needed is: a theory that recognizes that there are ‘laws’ that operate in the global political economy, but that these do not operate in any mechanical way, and in particular their effects cannot be taken as explanations for the development of particular countries in the ‘world system’. In other words ... the laws of motion of the global economy should be seen as tendencies, which can be altered by human action, both within and between countries (Kiely 1995: 103-104).

He bases this argument upon a reading of Marx in which capitalism is seen as an historical and social phenomenon produced through struggle rather than a natural universal phenomenon. For Kiely then, what is useful in Marx’s work is a historical and materialist method, grounded in empirical research, that shows that phenomenal forms are historically and socially created. Marx’s concern was therefore to build theory out of empirical research ... but didn’t take facts as given ... such ‘things’ are neither universal nor natural (Kiely 1995: 80).

This somewhat different approach to Marxism, also apparent in the work of Mouzelis (1988; 1990) and perhaps most fully articulated in the work of Larrain (1986), has much in common with the comparative approach to research that has arisen out of the impasse debate and perhaps provides one way of providing a context within which the plethora of local and national research produced in recent years might, in time, begin to produce some more general theorization which does not rely on notions of some all encompassing necessary logic. This is an urgent task if the impact of the rapid changes within the international economy and polity of the last couple of decades are to be adequately understood and, more importantly, if the neo-liberal ideology that has promoted those changes is to be effectively challenged. Part Three: The Encounter with Postmodernism To some, the concerns raised through the ‘impasse’ debate do not go nearly far enough in their critique of development theory. Their reaction to the diversity (or ‘difference’) of the modem world is to call for a much wider negation of the possibil­ ities for generalization, so that all that is left, and all that one can talk of (and even then with no particular authority), is the local and the specific. The recognition of


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diversity becomes an end in itself, rather than a means towards the rejuvenation of theoretical endeavours (Booth 1994: 14). Such perspectives relate to a much broader critique of modem social science encapsulated under the term Postmodernism. As mentioned in Chapter 2, there is a broad array of perspectives that might loosely fall under the banner of postmodernism, and as a consequence, it is perhaps unwise to talk of a postmodern approach to anything. Palmer, for instance, suggests that postmodern and poststructuralist thought is, extremely difficult to pin down and define with clarity precisely because it celebrates discursiveness, difference and destabilizations: it develops, not as a unified theory, but as constantly moving sets of concentric circles, connected at points of congruence, but capable of claiming new and uncharted interpretative territory at any moment (Palmer 1997: 109-110).

Nevertheless, some commonalties of use can be suggested. Simon (1998), for example, makes a useful distinction between three particular ways in which the post­ modern has been conceptualized: as epoch, as expression and as problematic (see also Dear 1988 on postmodernism as epoch, style and method; and also Chapter 2 on post­ modernism as object and approach). Most people probably first encounter the idea of postmodernism in relation to the broad periodization of history (for which, in most cases, read Western history). In this usage, postmodernism refers to the onset of a new epoch of world history, or ‘postmodernity’, which is seen to be markedly different to the modem period that preceded it in terms of economic, social, cultural and political organization and behaviour (see Chapter 2 on postmodernism as object). As Simon (1998) outlines, the idea of a new postmodern historical epoch has been used, by some, as a context within which to explore the significance of the increasing diversity in the experiences of developing countries. The growing limitations imposed upon the ability of individual governments to develop coherent independent policy programmes, the destabilizing of the traditional nation state, the evolution of new forms of consumption and social expression and the increasing rapidity and depth in the integration of the global economy are all interpreted as reflecting this new postmodern era. Intimately linked to ideas of globalization, such discussions of postmodemity stress the inability of traditional social theory to comprehend these tendencies and complexities, because of, for example, its ‘state-centric’ and ‘reduc­ tionist’ character. However, it should be pointed out that such approaches might themselves have a tendency towards over-generalization, in that essentially Western analyses of postmodemity have been universalized to encompass all manner of social and cultural processes occurring in other regions of the globe. The origins of the term postmodemity actually lie in the aesthetic fields of the arts and literature (particularly in architecture and the visual and performing arts) where the term was first used in the 1950s to signify a ‘complex of anti-modemistic artistic strategies’ that challenged the boundaries between ‘art’ and popular culture (Bertens 1995: 3). In this usage, the postmodern is conceptualized as a form of cultural expres­ sion, based around such features as the blurring of boundaries, ‘playfulness’ and pastiche. These features may even be interpreted as the cultural expression of the onset of the postmodern epoch suggested above (see Featherstone 1991). For our purposes, however, it is the third aspect (or usage) of Simon’s terminology which is the most interesting. Here, postmodernism is identified as an intellectual

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practice or problematic. As Bertens (1995: 6) explains, this usage of the term reflects the merging of the (essentially North American) aesthetic ideas of postmodernism with French post-structuralist philosophy. Postmodernism is, in this way, associated with a general questioning of the tenets of social theory through the abandonment of the idea that ‘language can reflect reality’; that knowledge can be said to bear any true reflection of a reality that exists ‘out there’ beyond the form in which it is expressed. In other words, it is the conviction that, knowledge is always distorted by the environ­ ment in which it is formulated; ‘that theories at best provide partial perspectives on their objects and that all cognitive representations of the world are historically and linguistically mediated’ (Peet 1997: 73). To some of its advocates the chief challenge is, therefore, not to search for the forms of explanation that most closely approximate to reality (this is now seen as hopelessly impossible) but, rather to recognise that ‘representations create rather than reflect reality’. This approach can be seen to bestow representations with an almost material status (Bertens 1995: 11). By this point, some readers may well have thrown up their hands in horror and disbelief: how could ideas that evolved from the cultural milieu of post-industrial society and which emphasize language and forms of representation over the material­ ity of the ‘real world,’ possibly have anything of relevance to say to the study of devel­ opment? I have to admit that this was my own reaction upon initially encountering attempts to introduce such themes into the development debate (see also Mohan 1997 and Simon 1988). I saw little to recommend what seemed to me to be essentially selfindulgent language games that had little to offer the struggle to articulate meaningful alternatives to the neo-liberal triumphalism of the times. Nevertheless, eventually, I have come round to the view that, despite the dense and, at times, virtually incompre­ hensible way in which it has often been articulated (although this a charge that could also be levelled at Marxist analyses), some elements of postmodern thought do offer important new perspectives on the traditional concerns of development theory or, at the very least, a healthy questioning of previously held certainties. Following Best and Kellner (1991: 257), however, it seems useful to draw a distinction between more ‘extreme’ postmodern approaches, that allow for little if any interaction with traditional or ‘modem’ social theory, and more ‘reconstructive’ approaches that have attempted to use ‘post-modern insights to reconstruct critical social theory and radical politics’. Within the more extreme forms of postmodern theory, admittedly rarely articulated within the development literature, any sense of causality has been abandoned altogether in favour of indeterminacy. In other words, their recognition of the partial and mediated nature of social knowledge leads such theorists to abandon any sense of causation in favour of an embrace of undecidability, difference and chance; in effect, abandoning social theory as an attempt to better understand society and casting all of the theorization thus far considered as being futile, authoritarian, repressive, warped and largely meaningless. If we were to take this view - ‘that “no” systematic knowledge of human action or trends of social development is possible’ (Corbridge 1993: 456) - then it may well be, as Corbridge citing Giddens (1990: 47) suggests, that one finds oneself in the position whereby ‘the only possibility would be to repudiate intellectual activity altogether even “playful deconstruction” - in favour of, say, healthy exercise’. He goes on to argue that if we are to avoid this excess we must conclude that a recognition of the importance of language in mediating knowledge,


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should not be taken to be equivalent to a break with reason itself ... It is perfectly sensible to accept that our stories about the world are imperfect and do not represent some essential truths, while insisting that some stories are better than others ... the critique of a privileged vantage point need not imply a critique of the possibility of knowledge (Corbridge 1993: 456).

This does, of course, raise the question of how we decide that one ‘story’ is ‘better’ than another; an issue that is still far from adequately explored even in the more polit­ ically committed postmodern work. However, it is an important issue if postmodern approaches to development are not to render all social theory meaningless and selfindulgent and if they are not to undermine the possibilities for change and political action. In a world so riven by poverty and intensifying international inequalities, it remains critically important to ensure that appreciation of the fluidity of the (post-) modem world, and the contested nature of our categorizations and evaluations of it, do not lead to a paralysis in meaningful critical analysis (Simon 1998: 241). Thankfully, to my mind at least, most of the emerging postmodern approaches to development lie nearer to the reconstructive side of Best and Kellner’s distinction. Indeed Peet (1998: 196) has suggested in relation to the influence of postmodernism upon geography more generally that ‘many ideas in what is supposedly poststructural or even postmodern geography turn out as hybrids derived from blending these with historical materialist notions’, although not everyone sees this as beneficial (see Doel 1993; 1999). Most postmodem-influenced research on development issues, whilst critical and suspicious of the claims of traditional social theory and insistent about the importance of language in structuring understanding, does still seem to wish to talk in terms of relations between forms of representation and a wider political world that exists beyond them; even though this distinction would have no meaning to those totally convinced by the more extreme postmodern and post-structuralist perspectives (see also Chapter 2). However, as we shall see, the conceptual tools for exploring this interface between representation and power remain, at present, sadly underdevel­ oped.

Deconstructing Development in a quite fundamental way, the voices of postmodernism ... force us to ask ... what is development, who says this is what it is, who is it for, who aims to direct it and for whom? (Corbridge 1993: 454).

Thus far, our consideration of postmodern approaches has been conducted at an extremely broad conceptual level. What remains to be shown is how such themes can be brought to bear upon development issues. In essence, as one might imagine from our preceding discussion, this has involves problematicizing the language used within development research and exploring relationships between social knowledge and political power. Some major foci in such research include: an interest in identity construction; explorations of the limitations of the meta-narratives of Western social theory in non-Western contexts; consideration of culture within discussions of the politics of development; and reflections on the rights of ‘experts’ (even, or perhaps

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especially, radical academics) to claim to speak for the interests of the poor and excluded. This final element has led to an intense process of academic reflexivity and self-doubt and a search for ‘spaces’ whereby such peoples might speak for themselves, rather than be represented through the words of others, however sympathetic. There is not the space here for detailed consideration of all of the issues such work addresses, and indeed some of them have already been alluded to in Chapter 2. Instead, given the broad conceptual focus of this chapter, I wish to explore how engagement with postmodern social theory has been brought to bear, upon the concept of development itself. Central to such efforts has been examination of how particular ways of constructing the world (in this case via the all encompassing idea of development) originate and evolve over time and, perhaps more importantly, how they might be destabilized so that other previously marginalized ways of seeing might be articulated. Drawing on parlance of the postmodernists and post-structural­ ists, such a process is often referred to as the deconstruction of the dominant discourses of development (see Box 3.7). The earliest example of this type of approach can be seen in the writings of Edward Said who employed Foucauldian discourse analysis’ to reveal how the Western discourse of Orientalism cemented unequal relationships between Europe and Asia through its negative depictions of the latter (see Said, 1978). Said’s influence was crucial in the emergence of a range of ‘post-colonial’ literatures. These writings, based initially in literary theory, have sought to re-evaluate the legacy of colonialism through examining its cultural impact upon colonized societies. This has involved a re-reading (and destabilization) of colo­ nial and post-colonial histories that highlights the role of representations in establish­ ing relations of exploitation and marginalisation.

Box 3.7: The power of language - discourses and deconstruction Statements about the social, political or moral world are rarely ever true or false; and ‘the facts’ do not enable us to decide definitively about their truth or falsehood, partly because ‘facts’ can be construed in different ways. The very language we use to describe the so-called facts interferes in this process of finally deciding what is true and what is false (Hall 1992: 292).

This quote from Stuart Hall provides an excellent illustration of the centrality of language to the ways in which different sorts of knowledge are produced within society. The short piece from which it is taken (Hall 1992: 291-318) constitutes a particularly effective introduction to one of the most crucial elements within any consideration of such issues - the idea of discourse. In everyday usage, discourse, refers generally to spoken or written language; within social theory, however, it has been used more specifically to refer to how knowledge and social practices are constructed (Fairclough 1992: 3). Hall, therefore, drawing upon the work of Michel Foucault, defines a discourse as, a group of statements which provide a language for talking about - i.e. a way of representing - a particular kind of knowledge about a topic. When statements


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about a topic are made within a particular discourse, the discourse makes it possi­ ble to construct the topic in a certain way. It also limits the other ways in which the topic can be constructed Hall 1992: 291).

What this suggests is that our knowledge of the world is structured and limited by these discourses. This social knowledge, in turn, influences our social prac­ tices, which illustrates the very real consequences and effects that discourses have upon society. Knowledge is, then, fluid; representing a contestation for power and influ­ ence between a range of competing discourses. It is the outcome of this strug­ gle that will determine how society views the ‘truth’ of any situation. As Hall goes on to point out, discourses are part of, the way power circulates and is contested. The question of whether a discourse is true or false is less important than whether it is effective in practice. When it is effective - organizing and regulating relations of power - (say, between the West and the Rest) it is called a ‘regime of truth’ (Hall 1992: 295).

Recognizing that these ‘regimes of truth’ exist is one thing, attempting to escape from their confines quite another. One approach towards this end has been that of Deconstruction (Derrida 1976). This approach has involved ‘deconstructing’ the ‘claims to truth’ of dominant discourses through interpre­ tations of their historical evolution that seek to reveal and destabilize how meaning has been constructed (particularly in terms of what has been seen as ‘normal’ or common sense and what has not) and, perhaps most importantly, how ‘others’ (those who are seen as different from us) have been represented. One central aspect of this has been to expose and, hopefully, reverse or displace, the importance within Western thought of binary opposites such as male/female and truth/falsity, ‘whereby the nature and primacy of the first term depends upon the definition of its opposite (other) and whereby the first term is also superior to the second’ (Parpart and Marchand 1995: 3). Such efforts it is argued, will reveal the incoherences of dominant forms of thinking and allow for the expression of other, previously marginalized, ways of seeing and knowing.

Said’s influence has also been significant within recent, more general, examina­ tions of the origins, dynamics and power of the idea of development itself. The very term, postmodernism, points to the direction of such work, suggesting the end (or transcendence) of modernity and, by inference, questioning the idea of human progress articulated through the enlightenment (see Chapter 2) and the very notion of ‘development’ itself. Since the early 1990s, a growing group of scholars have turned away from critiquing particular development strategies (or the inequalities of the context within which development is attempted) towards questioning the desirability of development itself and the impacts, in the ‘Third World’, of its consolidation as the dominant discourse ordering international relations and social transformation in the mid-to-late twentieth century. Probably the most important exponent of such analyses

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is the Colombian scholar Arturo Escobar, who succinctly outlines the rationale for such deconstructive efforts as follows: Development has been taken to be a true description of reality, a neutral language that can be utilized harmlessly and put to different ends according to the political and epistemological orientation of those waging it ... from Modernization theory to Dependency or World Systems; from ‘market-friendly development’ to self-directed, sustainable or eco­ development. The qualifiers of the term have multiplied without the term itself having been rendered radically problematic ... No matter that the term’s meaning has been hotly contested; what remained unchallenged was the very basic idea of development itself, development as a central organizing principle of social life, and the fact that Asia, Africa and Latin America can be defined as underdeveloped and that their communities are ineluctably in need of ‘development’ - in whatever guise or garb (Escobar 1997: 501-02).

What Escobar and others like him suggest is that the most important feature of Third World’ societies is their entrapment within an all-pervading set of ideas, the discourse o f development. This constitutes ‘an interwoven set of languages and practices’ (Crush 1995: xiii) that controls how meaning is bestowed and how the world has been imagined and hence acted upon (Escobar 1995: 5; Parpart and Marchand 1995: 3). To such theorists, it is in this realm of ideas and discursive frameworks that one must look for the ‘power of development’, reflecting a conviction that: the ability to control knowledge and meaning, not only through writing but also through disciplinary and professional institutions, and in social relations, is the key to understanding and exercising power relations in society (Parpart and Marchand 1995: 3).

Various studies have, then, begun to explore the ‘archaeology’ (see Chapter 2) of the idea of development; that is, the ways in which it has established itself as a form of ‘common sense’ truth about societies, and the manner in which it has disciplined and moulded the countries of the developing world to fit its own image of them. Such analytical efforts have, more often than not, been accompanied by strongly-worded denunciations of what has been done in the name of development and calls for its transcendence through the pursuit of new ways of thinking that might escape from the narrow confines of developmentalism. These types of deconstructions of development (often termed post-developmentalism) are intensely critical of what they term the ‘Development Industry’, or the plethora of institutions, academic disciplines and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that make up the modem development community, interpreting the long history of development as a ‘failed project’, or perhaps more forcefully, as a major mechanism of imperial domination of the non-West. There are some remarkably ascerbic assertions made about development’s failings; perhaps best illustrated through the often-quoted words of Esteva (1987: 135) that, ‘you must be either very dumb or very rich if you fail to notice that development stinks’. Others are equally dismissive. Sachs (1992: 1-2), for example, talks of the project of development as a ‘blunder of planetary proportions’ and a ‘crumbling lighthouse’ whose light keeps receding into the dark’; whilst Escobar sums up the experience of development since the Second World War as a dream that,


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progressively turned into a nightmare. For instead of the kingdom of abundance promised by theorists and politicians the discourse and strategy of development produced its opposite; massive underdevelopment and impoverishment, untold exploitation and oppres­ sion (Escobar 1995: 4).

Some of this material can amount to little more than sloganeering - drawing on ‘non-sequiturs,’ ‘unhelpful binary distinctions,’ ‘false deductions,’ ‘romanticism,’ ‘self-righteousness’ and ‘implausible politics’ (see Corbridge 1998) - which can attract one’s attention away from the deeper, more analytical work on the politics of knowledge (see Ferguson 1990; Escobar 1995; Crush 1995; Cooper and Packard 1997). There is a brutal simplicity to the ‘post-development’ position, but it does beg several questions. For one thing, it is open to question whether it is development as a concept that is outmoded and untenable, or whether, as has long been argued by Marxists and others, it has simply been misdirected. Furthermore, rather ironically, whilst the essence of postmodern approaches revolve around the celebration of differ­ ence, diversity and complexity, post-development portrayals of the impacts of ‘devel­ opm ent’ and the nature of development theory are incredibly monolithic and over-generalizing (Peet 1997: 97). In relation to the former, Simon suggests that the criticisms of post-war development outcomes may be somewhat overblown: the very tangible achievements of many development programmes - albeit to different extents and at different rates in rural and urban areas and in almost all countries of the South - in terms of wider access to potable water and increasing literacy rates, average nutritional levels, and life expectancy, for example, are often overlooked or ignored ... The way in which often-diverse programmes, agendas and even principles espoused by very different donor and recipient governments, nongovernmental organizations and international financial organizations are dismissed by postdevelopmental critics using the fashionable phrase, ‘the development project’ ... is unhelpful (Simon 1998: 221; see also Corbridge 1998: 145)).

Furthermore, postmodern critiques of development, perhaps more than any of the other approaches considered within this chapter, have tended to gloss over the differ­ ences between other alternative theories. There is, for example, a particular silence in relation to the work of more radical development theorists: Escobar (1995), for example, makes barely no mention of them. Where they are mentioned, then they are viewed as merely representing reversals of orthodox ideas of modernization which do not escape their basic conceptual frameworks. Peet suggests that this is an intrinsic problem with discursive analyses of development: the critical point here is not to make the easy claim that postmodern critics of development theory overstate their position, but to argue that the analysis of discourse, with its linking of oppositional theoretical traditions just because they oppose each other and therefore share a vaguely defined ‘same discursive space’, is prone to this kind of overgeneralization ... because it diverts attention from ... material contexts, conflating the different forms and bases of power, merging conflicting positions on development into a single development discourse (Peet 1997: 79).

Corbridge (1998) argues further that there is, in effect, not much new about post­ development accounts in that they assume, rather than explain, the mechanisms of

Unravelling the Web o f Theory


domination which they associate with the idea of development. The irony is that, in many cases, post-developmental deconstructions of the discourses of development are even more generalizing than the radical political economy perspectives that they are so scathing of. The vast complexities of development over space and time are, more often than not, reduced to the idea of an imposed Western mode of thinking and seeing that owes much (although this is never directly acknowledged) to the more simplistic formulations of dependency theory and cultural imperialism. There is also a tendency to romanticize the possibilities for the emergence of alternatives that might transcend development, most often associated with a championing of the liber­ ating role of new social movements (see Escobar 1995). In essence, what this often boils down to is a glorification of ‘tradition’ (see Cowen and Shenton 1996: 456) and an, at least partial, misinterpretation of popular struggles for the fruits of modernity (even if those fruits are unachievable) as representing resistance to development (see Brown 1996). This brief review of the influences of postmodern approaches within studies of development has been extremely cursory. The specific focus on post-development has been, I think, justified given the wide remit of the chapter, although it has perhaps diverted attention away from other, more subtle, attempts to stress the importance of representation (and particularly identity) within analyses of development (although see Chapters 7, 8, 11 and 12). What it has highlighted, however, is that, despite the limitations noted, postmodern approaches within development studies have been politically engaged and have certainly not suffered from the nihilism and detachment characteristic of some postmodern analyses in other areas of social theory: here, at least, there has not been a descent into navel-gazing language games. The emerging work on the discourses of development has forced a profound examination of the ways in which our knowledge of the world is constructed and articulated. As Foster suggests more generally, postmodern rejections of, grand historical narratives, of any central struggles that define history, indeed of any historical subject, coupled with its insistence on the constitution of our knowledge within diffused power relations, leads it to ‘genealogical’ investigations of power ‘nearest to the body’ - areas that social theory has been insufficiently attentive to in the past. Its concen­ tration on discourse, as the sole constitutive element in social relations, has revealed much about the role of language in the ordering of power. Its researches have thus increased our critical understanding of many aspects of society previously neglected. In particular, it has had a deep influence on feminist analysis (although many would argue that the relationship has primarily been the other way around) racial formation theory, cultural theory, political conceptions of surveillance and control, etc. Its emphasis on what is most personal has struck a chord in a period in which the personal has become political (Foster 1997: 190).

Nevertheless, as our explorations of the post-development literature have revealed, postmodern approaches also leave serious questions about agency and power insuffi­ ciently addressed, through their tendency to abstract analyses of representation and discursive strategies from the economic and political forces which infuse them with power and authority (Peet 1997: 80). It seems that we have ended up exchanging a conception of power as ultimately based in material economic structures to one which sees it as primarily based around language and discursive domination; how


Contested Worlds

such an approach can hope to encompass the very real dynamics of global economic inequalities and the intricacies of local production processes in a serious manner is open to severe doubt. As Jonathan Crush suggests in the introduction to Power and Development: though development is fundamentally textual it is also fundamentally irreducible to a set of textual images and representations. Even as they explore facets of the rhetoric and language of development, the essays in this volume implicitly reject the conceit that language is all there is (Crush 1995: 5).

Crush goes on to insist that such studies must make, conceptual space... for an exploration of the links between the discursive and the nondiscursive; between the words, the practices and the institutional expressions of develop­ ment; between the relations of power and domination that order the world and the words and images that represent those worlds (Crush 1995: 6).

As I have argued elsewhere (Brown 1996), quite how the links between the realm of ideas and political and economic contexts within which they are articulated are to be explored remains unclear at present. Even Escobar (1995) recognizes the impor­ tance of the material context of political power, yet he never adequately explores the linkages between dominant forms of representation and changing material contexts of the global economy. Others are also concerned by this. Slater (1996: 265), for example, in a sympathetic review of Escobar’s book, questions the lack of engage­ ment with the existing radical economic literatures, asking whether we are to ‘assume ... that radical economic analysis has no role in the needed reconstructions of thinking about North-South relations’. It seems that there is the potential for a fruitful interaction between the more responsive, historically sensitive and less deterministic versions of Marxism that have arisen out of the ‘impasse’ debate and the emerging explorations of the discursive aspects to the exertion of political power on the world stage. Quite how that research agenda is to be taken forward is, nonetheless, still very much open to debate (especially given the animosity so often displayed between Marxists and postmodernists). Two contrasting indications of some potential directions for such research lie, firstly, in the long yet currently marginalized traditions of Gramscian analyses of ideology and political praxis (see Moore and Schmitz 1995) and, secondly, in attempts to articulate some sort of ‘postmodern materialism’ or ‘materialist postmodernism’ that propose a continued engagement with Marxist interpretations of the economic sphere and yet refuse to give them causal priority (see Callari and Ruccio 1996, or for a critique, Albritton 1995). In the words of Resnick and Wolff, all that can ever be done - and all that any analyst ever has done - is to select some few influences and discuss their unique and different role in shaping the chosen event. Marxists, for example, have often chosen to stress economic influences and especially class influ­ ences ... The problem arises ... if and when any analysts ... claim ... that the influences they have chosen to study and the analyses they constructed based on them are not just some influences, but are indeed the crucial influences in some quantitative sense (Resnick and Wolff 1992: 132-3).

Unravelling the Web o f Theory


Summary and Conclusion This has, by necessity, been a brief and partial journey through some of the major schools of thought that have influenced how geographers have approached develop­ ment issues over the past forty years or so. I have already made excuses for some of the more obvious omissions so it is not worth repeating those here, save to say that my major intention was to focus on broad conceptual issues relating to how development has been understood and pursued. There also seems little point in offering a final synthesis of the diverse schools of thought that have been discussed. Instead, reflect­ ing the current state of flux within the theorization of development, I wish to conclude the discussion via a series of broad themes and questions. The second half of the twentieth century might quite conceivably be termed the ‘age of development’. As we start a new millennium it appears, however, as if that age is now drawing to a close or, at the very least, what is understood by the idea of development is undergoing some dramatic changes. The international stage is dominated by the global­ ization of neo-liberal ideas concerned with the pursuit of free trade and the prioritiza­ tion of market forces within more and more spheres of social activity. Traditional developmental agendas of poverty reduction, targeted industrialization and/or human and institutional capacity enhancement, whilst certainly still present, are, nonetheless, now framed within the confines of economic policies that do not emphasize or place strategic importance upon such concerns. Amidst such circumstances and the associ­ ated intensification of poverty and inequality in many parts of the world, there is an urgent need to refine our understanding of the ways in which the international economy is being transformed and the apparently chaotic cycles of political and cultural change occurring across the globe at a variety of different scales. The extent to which the approaches towards development reviewed within this chapter have enabled or hindered such academic endeavours obviously depends upon our own individual inter­ pretation of those theories and the nature of the world around us. The types of questions that have to be answered in arriving at our individual conclusions (or leanings) on these matters are many and varied; there are, perhaps, three of particular importance. a) b)


Does the idea of development retain any meaning in the early twenty-first century? Is there anything unique (and knowable) about capitalism as an economic system and, if so, what do we know about how it operates and in what ways it is being transformed? To what extent are we able to make generalizations about the impacts of global changes upon individual nations and communities and should we even be attempting to make such generalizations?


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Box 3.8: Chapter summary and suggestions for further reading This chapter has reviewed some of the threads of the complex web of theoreti­ cal ideas that surround notions of development and which can threaten to engulf the unwary student. In particular this chapter has highlighted: •

Variants of Marxist development theory that dominated geographical discussions of development from the early 1970s, including dependency and modes of production theories.

How the rise of Marxist theory in development studies was challenged by the rise of neo-liberalism in international development institutions and also an academic critique which suggested that it did not sufficiently recognise diversity in the modem world.

How the academic critique conducted initially from within a broadly modernist framework, but during the 1990s has become influenced by a postmodernist questioning of representational theory.

Differences in postmodernism, particularly between ‘extreme postmod­ ernism’ and ‘reconstructive postmodernism’.

How a reconstructive postmodernism has ‘deconstructed’ discourses of development, revealing how the very idea of development is used to estab­ lish and reproduce relations of domination and exploitation.

As should be evident from this chapter, there are a whole host of writings that employ some notion of development. The following may form useful starting points for further exploration of the issues surrounding the conceptualisation of development: Corbridge (1986) Capitalist World Development; Crush (1995) Power o f Development, Forbes (1987) The Geography o f Underdevelopment', Martinussen (1997) Society, State and Market', Peet (1991) Global Capitalism; Roxborough (1979) Theories o f Underdevelopment', and Schuurman (1993) Beyond The Impasse.

Chapter 4

Global Crises? Issues in Population and the Environment H azel B arrett and A ngela Browne

Introduction Both population and the environment are commonly perceived to be in crisis. The socalled Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 (more formally entitled, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) and the Cairo Population Conference held in September 1994, reinforced these views, with alarmist media reports following. Debates concerning the relationship between population and the environment are however, not new and present day discourse on the subject can be traced back to Malthus’ influential Essay on the Principle o f Population published in 1798. Since then, the debate has broadened, with research demonstrating the highly intricate relationship connecting people with their environment. This chapter focuses on the complex theoretical debates concerning the linkages between these two emotive issues and uses examples from sub-Saharan Africa to illustrate them. We will begin by discussing, briefly, some general aspects of population distri­ bution and growth, the notion of environment and contemporary sub-Saharan Africa. Population Discussions of population are often dominated by population size and fertility rates. These are clearly very important aspects of the human population. In 1999, the world’s population exceeded six billion (UNFPA 1999; Barrett, 2000), with the last billion added in only 12 years. As Table 4.1 shows, more than half the world’s six billion people live in East and South Asia, regions which include China and India. Yet these regions have moderate annual population growth rates of 1.2 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively. The regions with the highest growth rates are sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, with rates of over two per cent. The region with the lowest annual population growth rate is Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where an annual population growth rate of -0.2 per cent suggests there is no current population growth in these regions and that in the medium to long term population numbers will decline. Table 4.1 shows, both population annual growth rates and total fertility rates are decreasing in all world regions. The world’s total population is now increasing by 1.3 per cent per year, a reduction of 0.4 per cent in the average annual rate of population growth between 1980 and 1990. The rate is expected to continue to fall to 1 per cent

9.8 30.8 24.3 5.1 5.9 8.5 15.6 100.0


354.0 511.3 935.0 6028.4

Population as % of world total

596.7 1,858.0 1,465.8

Sources: World Bank 1997: UNFPA 1999

Sub-Saharan Africa East Asia and Pacific South Asia Eastern Europe and Central Asia Middle East and North Africa Latin America High Income Economies World Total

Population in millions

3.1 2.0 0.7 1.7


3.0 1.6 2.2

2.1 1.6 0.3 1.3


2.4 1.2 1.8

Average annual population growth rate % 1980-90 1995-00

Table 4.1: Population characteristics of major world regions

6.1 4.1 1.9 3.7


6.7 3.1 5.3


3.7 2.7 1.6 2.7


5.2 2.2 3.4


Total fertility rate

48 65 75 40


23 21 22

56 74 75 45


31 31 26

Urban population as % of total population 1980 1995

128 Contested Worlds

Global Crises? Issues in Population and the Environment


by the year 2020. However a considerable population momentum is present because nearly half the world’s population is below 15 years of age and it is expected that there will be enormous population growth when these young people become parents. At the beginning of this millennium it was estimated that an additional 78 million people per year were being added to the w orld’s population. Of this increase, 95 per cent were living in developing countries (UNFPA 1999). United Nations medium term projections suggest that by the year 2050, the world’s popula­ tion will have reached 8.9 billion; assuming that total fertility rates and population growth rates continue to decline. Thus the demographic momentum is such that, even using the most optimistic assumptions, the world’s population will increase by 3 billion people in the first fifty years of this century (UNFPA 1999). That will mean 50 per cent more people utilising the world’s resources than at the end of the twen­ tieth century. Another major demographic trend is the rapid rate of urbanisation (Clark, 2000). In 1995 45 per cent of the world’s population lived in urban settlements, a 5 per cent increase in five years. This trend is particularly noticeable in developing regions, where urban populations are growing at twice the rate of rural populations. By 2025 it is estimated that over 60 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas, representing 4.6 billion people. Although cities contribute to economic development, accelerate the fertility transition and relieve pressure on rural areas, cities generate serious and increasing environmental problems (ActionAid 1992). The Environment Environment is a term which whilst often taken as being a central constituent of geog­ raphy (see Chapters 2) is difficult to define. It is used in a variety of contexts and even when considered solely in association with population still acquires many meanings. It is, for example, often used interchangeably with the term ‘nature’ and taken to refer to resource endowments which provide for the sustenance of human life and economic activity. In other cases it is used to characterise spaces which surround particular populations. Sometimes these two meanings are conjoined, as when people refer to ‘environmental changes’ brought about by human activity. Peoples action in their local surroundings, for example, may bring about changes in vegetative cover, as with deforestation, which in turn may have further ‘environmental impacts’ such as altering the content and balance of nutrients in the soil and its capacity for regenera­ tion. Furthermore all the possible meanings of population and environment take different shades of meaning and have different implications, depending on the spatial level at which they are considered. Sub-Saharan Africa The case studies used in this chapter are predominantly drawn from sub-Saharan Africa, a region which, although comprising approximately 10 per cent of the world’s population, has the highest population growth rate and by far the highest total fertility rate of any of the major regions of the world (Table 4.1). The growth rate of its urban population, at 5 per cent per annum between 1980 and 1995, is the fastest regional value in the world today and represents an atypical model of urbanisation in historical


Contested Worlds

terms, namely one that is not based on a synergy with industrialisation and develop­ ment. Furthermore, Africa is widely reported to be a region of very difficult and harsh environments, with fragile soils, unpredictable and unreliable rainfall regimes, seasonal rivers and little opportunity for water control, except by massive engineering projects such as those on the Zambezi and the Volta rivers (Binns 1994). It is also the only region showing declining per capita food production (Dyson 1996). The region has also been the scene of many recent global crises. During the 1980s and 1990s almost all of the world’s famines occurred in Africa, and the widespread drought in southern Africa in the early 1990s was the worst ever recorded for that region. The problem of desertification, highlighted particularly in the 1970s in the Sahel region, is another sign of environmental stress. Although generally not densely populated, the region has pockets of very high population density where signs of environmental degradation are very evident. Even in areas of moderate or even low population density, environmental degradation is a serious problem. For all these reasons Africa offers a good opportunity to review the contested theo­ retical perspectives associated with the population/environment debate. But it is also of interest because it is one of the poorest regions of the world, and according to Oxfam, the only region where the percentage of people below the poverty line is predicted to increase. The Oxfam study, published in 1993, reports that the numbers below the poverty line are predicted to rise from the 1990 level of 216 million (48 per cent of the then population) to 304 million (almost 50 per cent) in the year 2000 (Oxfam 1993). As this chapter will show, the relationship between population, poverty and the environment is now understood to be of very great importance in theoretical work linking population with environment.

Population-Environment Theoretical Perspectives Population is the Problem The view that population growth and the environment are linked has been articu­ lated for more than two hundred years. Initially environmental factors, especially food production, were seen as a major constraint on the growth of human popula­ tions. More recently the relationship has been re-articulated, with population growth being posited as a major cause of resource depletion and environmental degradation. Proponents of this school of thought view population growth as a ‘dependent factor’, which needs to be controlled if environmental conditions and ultimately human well-being are to be improved. This view has, however, been crit­ icised for its failure to distinguish between association and causation. Adherents regard the effect of population on the environment as universally negative and ignore the impact of other factors. Despite these criticisms the view that the rela­ tionship between population growth and the environment is detrimental to both parts of the equation is a popular one, with many alarmist books being published such as The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich in 1968 and Only One Earth by Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos in 1972.

Global Crises? Issues in Population and the Environment


Malthusian Pessimism The constraints to population growth and human welfare imposed by an environment with finite resources was first expressed by Malthus in the late eighteenth century (see Box 4. 1). He postulated that continued increases in population numbers could not be supported by the Earth’s productive capacity to supply food and that in the absence of controlled human fertility, war, famine and disease would inevitably restore the balance between population numbers and the ability of the environment to provide for them. For Malthus food production levels were the limiting factor on population growth. His theoretical perspective viewed the social-environmental relationship as essentially static, with unchanging methods of food production and a limited supply of land. Thus the only solution to increasing population pressure on the environment is a demographic response.

Box 4.1: The population-food debate In 1798 Thomas Malthus published his highly influential paper Essay on the Principle o f Population, which investigated the relationship between popula­ tion growth and food supplies. His fundamental thesis was that population is constrained by food supplies. He argued that population naturally increased in a geometric ratio, that is 2, 4, 8, 16, and so on, whereas food production increased only in an arithmetic ratio, namely 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. The inevitable outcome would be that population numbers would exceed food supplies (Figure B4.1a). The result would be famine, war, misery and increasing death rates (labelled ‘positive checks’ by Malthus) until the equilibrium between population and food supplies was restored. However Malthus argued that if population numbers could be controlled, then such a scenario could be avoided. He suggested that if ‘preventative checks’, such as moral restraint, sexual absti­ nence and late marriage were encouraged, then the balance between population growth and food supplies could be maintained (Figure B4.1a).

P o p u la tio n i n c r e a s e s in g e o m e tr ic ra tio

P o p u la tio n is a lw a y s lim ite d b y f o o d s u p p ly

F o o d s u p p ly in c r e a s e s in a rith m e tic ra tio



Figure B4.1a: Malthus’ theory of population and food supply Source: Barrett 1992: 22

Contested Worlds


The last two hundred years have provided little evidence to support Malthus’ arguments. The world’s population today is larger and better fed than it was when Malthus was writing. Although there have been localised and regional famines, the global catastrophe predicted by Malthus has not occurred. However there have continued to be commentators suggesting that societies are close to reaching some critical point with regards to population levels. Writers like Lester Brown (1991, 1994) and Paul Ehrlich (Ehrlich 1968; Ehrlich and Ehrlich 1990) all argue that global food production is increasingly coming up against various major constraints, the most serious being a shortage of land and water (Figure B4.1b). These, together with global warming and ozone deple­ tion, are seen to be putting the world’s population on course for a Malthusian disaster.

Reductions in basic agricultural resources (e.g. land and water) per person

Increased requirements and demand for food

Growth in income per person

Deterioration of proximate environmental conditions in which agriculture is practised. For example: • land degradation (e.g. soil erosion) • water degradation (e.g. salinization) • overgrazing — ►desertification • deforestation —►flooding

Decline in food (e.g. cereal) production per person, involving: • declining food crop yields • reductions of food stocks • rise in the price of food

Deterioration of ‘high level’ environmental conditions in which agriculture is practised. Notably: • •

global warming — ► climate change ozone depletion —► UV-B radiation

Rising death rates in poor countries, due to: • worsening nutrition • famines

P o p u la tio n g ro w th

H Figure B4.1b: Population and food: Key relationships in the modern neo-Malthusian case Source: Dyson, 1996: 14

These neo-Malthusians arguably present a very plausible and alarmist prospect for the future of the human population. However it is a highly contested view­ point. In a detailed study of population and food production trends, Dyson (1996) can find no evidence, at a global level to support the neo-Malthusian view. He states quite categorically, ‘the 1980s and early 1990s have not been a

Global Crises? Issues in Population and the Environment


particularly dismal period for global per capita food production’ (p. 96). He concludes on this optimistic note, ‘there is fair reason to expect that in the year 2020 world agriculture will be feeding the larger global population no worse and probably a little better - than it manages to do today’ (p. 208).

Within this approach the concept of ‘carrying capacity’, which is explained in Box 4.2, has been used by advocates of the Malthusian perspective to suggest that there is a ‘population threshold’ that a particular environment can support within a given level of technology whilst retaining its capacity for regeneration. Early examples of attempts to evaluate the carrying capacity of specific environments under traditional systems of agricultural production include Allan’s work in Northern Rhodesia, first published in 1949 and Hunter’s work in Ghana in 1966 (both re-published in Prothero 1974). Concerns about the ability of fast growing populations in developing countries to feed themselves gave the concept of carrying capacity a new lease of life during the 1980s (Higgins et a l 1982; Muscat 1985). However, the problems of assessing and measuring carrying capacity have meant that it has had limited analytical value, as Blaikie and Brookfield state: If carrying capacity changes with each turn in the course of socio-economic evolution, each new technological input or new crop introduction, and can also vary markedly according to the bounty or otherwise of rainfall in a given year, of what use is the concept? (Blaikie and Brookfield 1987: 29).

Box 4.2: The concept of carrying capacity in population geography The essential debate concerning population growth and its relationship with resources and the environment has been greatly advanced by the development of ecological ideas, and particularly the concept of ‘carrying capacity’. This concept has long been used by biologists and ecologists, but has only relatively recently been recognised by population geographers as a useful tool (see Barrett 1992). The carrying capacity of a ‘natural system’ can be expressed in terms of the maximum number of organisms that can be sustained by the food producing system without impairing the ability of that system to continue producing. If the numbers of organisms depending on a biological system become excessive, then the system will be slowly destroyed. For example, if an area of ocean is overfished, stocks will dwindle and the fishery will collapse; similarly, when forest cutting exceeds regrowth, forest cover will consequently decrease. The same concept has been applied to human populations. Figure B4.2 demonstrates the possible consequences for a human population when carrying capacity is exceeded. As shown in Figure B4.2a, population overshoots the carrying capacity of the environment and its ability to support them and adjustment of the population takes place with the previously existing equilibrium being restored. In Figure 4.2b carrying capacity is exceeded but the

Contested Worlds


human population continues to expand, consuming the biological resource itself. The result is that human consumption and numbers have to be reduced as the biological system collapses. In Figure B4.2c population expands but impending disaster is postponed by the application of technologies that raise the carrying capacity of the life support system.

a Carrying capacity^

P o p u la tio n s ta b ilise s a t m axim um carry in g capacity. Population growth/


b Carrying capacity

Population growth y

P o p u la tio n g ro w th e x c e e d s c a rry in g c a p a c ity a n d th e b io lo g ical r e s o u rc e b a s e is d e stro y e d . A s a re s u lt p o p u la tio n d e c r e a s e s Time


Carrying capacity

Population growth y

P o p u la tio n g ro w th e x c e e d s carry in g cap acity , w hich is in c re a se d to a c c o m m o d a te p o p u la tio n grow th.


Figure B4.2a-c: The relationship between population growth and carrying capacity Source: Barrett, 1992: 25

Global Crises? Issues in Population and the Environment


The concept of carrying capacity is particularly useful to population geogra­ phers when considering the concept of over population. It helps explain why some areas with low population densities, such as Africa with an average of only 18 persons per square kilometre, are believed to be overpopulated, while Western Europe, with a much higher population density of 155 persons per square kilometre, is not. Carrying capacities are not fixed through time. They are a function of technology and can therefore be raised or lowered. It is thus the level of economic development and technological application that deter­ mines a region’s human carrying capacity. The concept thus illustrates that reducing population growth itself is often one part of a two-way solution. Investment in modern inputs, for example, can dramatically raise the popula­ tion carrying capacity of croplands, although this very often is dependent on technological breakthroughs such as genetically engineered, high-yielding crop varieties.

Neo-Malthusian Alarmism Despite the enormous scientific and technical advances made since Malthus’ time, the Malthusian view of impending catastrophe for the human population has not lost currency and still has its advocates. By the late twenti­ eth century Malthusian concern had moved away from food production to embrace resource depletion. In the early 1970s a book entitled The Limits to Growth (Meadows et al. 1972) warned of the impending exhaustion of key natural resources unless population growth and levels of consumption were drastically reduced. Whilst this thesis was dismissed by many as alarmist, and its dire predictions have not become manifest, this seminal work highlighted the population-environment debate at a time when concern over the effects of human activity on the environment was growing. The publication of The Limits to Growth heralded a shift within Malthusian perspectives. The preceeding Malthusian view was that the environment was the limiting factor to population growth was reversed. Instead the impact of population on the environment became central. In 1968 Paul Ehrlich articulated this relationship as a simple equation: I=PxAxT Where: I P A T

equals human impact on the environment stands for population factors including size, growth rates and distribution represents affluence and lifestyle measured by per capita consumption stands for the technologies that supply A

Amongst these variables there is assumed to be a multiplier effect, with impacts compounding one another. This formula suggests that environmental degradation is not solely correlated with the rate of population growth, but is a function of production technologies and consumption patterns (Commoner 1988). The formula is used to show how large populations in developing countries, despite widespread poverty and lack of access to


Contested Worlds

technology, can impact heavily on the environment. On the other hand, the formula also demonstrates how relatively small wealthy populations in the industrialised countries can also have a detrimental impact on the environment. A report by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) summarised this position by stating that two global groups are responsible for a disproportionate share of environmental degradation: the world’s top billion richest and bottom billion poorest people. The ascendance of this environment-centred paradigm was reflected in the publi­ cation of the United Nation’s World Commission on Environment and Development report in 1987, entitled Our Common Future. This influential document considered environmental issues and concluded that environmental degradation and change resulted not just from the growth in population numbers. It suggested that patterns of consumption, resource use, production technologies, the global economic system and acute poverty also contributed to environmental degradation. The report called for sustainable development to help protect our environment for future generations. The notion of sustainable development has been widely adopted within popula­ tion-environmental discourse, although even within this environment-sentive debate, the nature of the relationship between population growth and environmental degrada­ tion has been the subject of much contestation. A number of international agencies including UNPF, IUCNNR, the Worldwatch Institute and the World Bank support the view that it is the increasing demands made on resources by high fertility levels and population growth which cause environmental damage and resource depletion. So, despite the recognition that there is a complex relationship between population and the environment, high population growth rates in developing countries are still largely blamed for environmental degradation (Jolly 1993: 13). Population growth remained a favoured explanatory variable in accounts of envi­ ronmental degradation for two reasons. First, the macro-economic, political and institutional factors, which for many non-Malthusians constitute the ultimate causes of environmental degradation, are widely perceived to be extremely resistant to change. Secondly, by contrast, population growth is perceived to be the easiest of factors to influence by policy intervention. Confronted with complex relationships, population continues to figure high in the environmental agendas of scholars and policy makers on the basis that ‘while there is no systematic evidence to demon­ strate that reducing population growth would actively lift the veil of poverty or regenerate environments, failure to do so will certainly worsen environments’ (Shaw 1989: 207). Population is a Positive Force A counter-argument to the view that population is inevitably associated with environ­ mental degradation has pointed to evidence that historically increasing population density has been associated with the evolution of more intensive and productive landuse systems. Thus, far from being detrimental, population growth can be seen as a major positive force for technological change. Unlike the neo-Malthusian view which perceives technology as ultimately environmentally destructive, this view suggests that technology can be used to improve environmental quality and conserve finite resources. However, a major criticism of this view is the assumption that intensifica­

Global Crises? Issues in Population and the Environment


tion of production is necessarily beneficial. Agricultural intensification can lead to soil degradation or pollution from agro-chemicals, just as easily as it can result in improved land management. The key question to be answered is under what condi­ tions does population pressure result in innovation rather than degradation? Boserupian Optimism In contrast to the Malthusian and neo-Malthusian approaches to the population-environment debate, Boserup’s seminal work The Conditions o f Agricultural Growth claimed that ‘population increase leads to the adoption of more intensive systems of agriculture in primitive communities and an increase of total agricultural output’ (Boserup 1965: 118). According to Boserup, sustained popula­ tion growth results in agricultural intensification characterised by the use of higher labour inputs and improved technology which make increased output possible through a more intensive use of land. Thus population growth in rural areas with low agricultural technology is viewed as a pre-condition for increasing agricultural output, enhancing land productivity and ultimately achieving economic growth and rural development. Within this approach population growth is the variable responsi­ ble for autonomous intensification in a closed rural system. Only migration can stop or delay the processes of intensification. Boserup’s thesis is summarised in Box 4.3.

Box 4.3: Boserup’s optimistic thesis Boserup’s (1965) The Conditions o f Agricultural Growth challenges neoMalthusian views that population increase leads to destruction of the land. Instead an alternative hypothesis is presented which recognises population as a positive stimulus to improving and intensifying the use of land. The hypothesis can be summarised as a five-phase sequential model, in which the agricultural system is adapted to an increase in population by progressive reductions in the fallow period, and increasing frequency and intensity of land use. The five-fold typology of land use, which Boserup (1965) describes as both a classification system and an evolutionary model, is as follows: -

Phase 1: Forest fallow cultivation, with long fallow periods Phase 2: Bush fallow cultivation, with medium fallow periods Phase 3: Short fallow cultivation, with short fallow periods Phase 4: Annual cropping, with no fallow period Phase 5: Multi-cropping, with two or more successive crops a year.

Within this model, increasing food needs of a growing population are met by increasing the length of time the land is in cultivation and shortening the time in fallow. By phase four, the fallow period has been eliminated, with the land being used every year by means of careful and intensive management, which preserves and enhances soil fertility. The most intensive system, multiple crop­ ping, is found in the most densely populated regions of the world, especially the Far East. Boserup suggests that, under the pressure of increasing population, the shift in recent decades from more extensive to more intensive systems of land use has occurred in virtually every part of the developing world. In this


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way, ‘regions which previously, under forest fallow, could support only a couple of families per square kilometre, today support hundreds of families by means of intensive cultivation’ (Boserup 1965: 22). Boserup’s work has considerable relevance for Africa, which is predomi­ nantly within the extensive categories of land-use systems, is generally not densely populated, but has very high rates of population growth. Her optimistic view of the beneficial effect of population in stimulating agricultural intensifi­ cation challenged the widely held view of the 1950s and 1960s that the soils and climate of the tropical zone limited the scope for intensification, thereby restricting the number of people that these areas could support. Boserup points out that where land is used intensively, for example in parts of Nigeria, the soils and climate are no different from where it is used extensively: the difference is that intensively used areas support dense populations whose farming methods have actually increased soil fertility.

The attractiveness of Boserup’s theory is not in its empirical basis, which is relatively weak and largely based on the experience of pre-industrial Europe and Asia, but in the fact that it provides an alternative approach to Mai thus. Although there have been some criticisms of Boserup’s approach (see Lele and Stone 1989; Bilsborrow 1987; Bilsborrow and Ogendo 1992) the Boserupian view has recently become the centre of revisions and adaptations that reflect the re-emergence of the notion that population growth in present day developing countries may be a favourable condition for economic development in general and agricultural growth in particular. A detailed longitudinal study (1930-1990) undertaken in Machakos District in Kenya by Tiffen et al. (1994) found support for Boserup’s theory. Their conclusion that ‘human adapt­ ability is sufficiently great to cope with population growth rates of 3 per cent per annum’ (Tiffen et al. 1994: 261), in both high and low potential agricultural areas, ran counter to mainstream positions which favoured a neo-Malthusian perspective. This study effectively constituted a new ‘paradigm’ in the study of rural development in developing countries, and is summarised in Box 4.4. Other studies confirm these conclusions. One study of the evolution of technologies in tropical agriculture, for example, found that, far from being immobile and technologically stagnant, ‘traditional’ societies have responded to changes in population densities and external markets with changes in farming systems and landuse patterns, as well as technological change, in system­ atic and predictable patterns (Pingali and Binswanger 1987: 50).

Box 4.4: The Machakos story The Machakos study by Tiffen et al. (1994) covered the period 1930-1990, and documented the resource management practices of African smallholders in a predominantly semi-arid district in south-east Kenya. During the period

Global Crises? Issues in Population and the Environment


studied, the population of Machakos District grew from 238,000 to 1,393,000 and the amount of land per person fell from 2.66 ha to 0.97 ha. In 1930 the colonial department of agriculture wrote despairingly of the vast-scale of population-induced degradation, reflecting the official view that overstocking, inappropriate cultivation and deforestation, in an area already considered to be overpopulated, were to blame. But by 1990, not only had colo­ nial predictions of land becoming a ‘parched desert’ not materialised, but land had actually been made considerably more productive by means of a range of investments made by the growing population. This growth in population was considered to be the trigger for intensification in the district: as landholdings shrank in size it became necessary to apply increasing amounts of labour and capital to the holdings to raise crop yields. This was achieved in the following ways: -


terracing of the land to achieve soil and water conservation; this is now very widespread in the district, especially in more hilly areas adoption of an ‘appropriate’ multi-purpose ox-plough, useable by both men and women, to achieve faster tillage manuring the land instead of fallowing, the manure being derived from household stall-fed cattle and small-stock, thus achieving soil replenish­ ment on annually cropped fields increasing use of drought-escaping (i.e. quick maturing) maize varieties, developed on a local agricultural research station, and utilised by farmers in conjunction with local and hybrid varieties to maximise their farms’ potential.

These agronomic improvements were all permitted by a conducive economic and institutional environment, which gave farmers the opportunities and incen­ tives to expand or diversify production. The authors of the study stress, in particular: -

market opportunities, eagerly seized by farmers, first for coffee and then for fruit and vegetables the acquisition of technical knowledge and experimental attitudes derived from formal schooling, travel, the missions and the market employment outside the district, bringing investment funds into farming investment of public funds (but not disproportionately to other semi-arid areas) security of title, with individual rights to land reinforced by statutory regis­ tration, which has now spread to most parts of the district.

In addition, the social environment has facilitated change, especially: -

flexible use of family labour, supplemented by hired labour or by collec­ tive work- groups (particularly for terracing) the crucial role of women both as farmers and as community leaders and participants.


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The authors emphasise that the skills, enterprise and adaptability of the popula­ tion brought about this farming revolution, which was driven by the increasing scarcity of land and facilitated by a generally favourable external environment, particularly since independence. The role of the state has been largely indirect, in that it pursued an open market path to economic development, provided the economic infrastructure, supported individual title to land and promoted chan­ nels for the communication of technology. The market, rather than enforcement or external intervention, was seen as providing a stimulus to innovation. As the authors say, ‘What happened in Machakos did not contravene the laws of nature, as the Malthusian paradigm would express them, but rather grew logically from a conjunction of increasing population density, market growth and a generally supportive economic environment’ (Mortimore andTiffen 1995: 86).

Tiffen et al. (1994) presented a new interpretation of the positive effects of the dynamics of population growth in rural areas shown in Figure 4.1. It demonstrates a situation in which population growth results not only in increased agricultural output, but also in environmental regeneration as a result of ‘the farmers’ own investments of labour and capital into land improvement and development, at times assisted by external advice and capital’ (Tiffen et al. 1994: 263). The study emphasises the importance of government interventions and policy in assisting or impeding some of the positive effects of population growth. The most important positive effects of population growth identified in the study were: increased food needs; increased labour supply; increased interaction of ideas leading to new technologies; and economies of scale in the provision of social and physical infrastructure. The rate at which these produce agricultural intensification depends on a number contextual variables including government policy and access to credit. Population as One o f Many Factors Both the Malthusian and Boserupian views have been criticised for being oversimplistic. They both ignore the complexity of causation and the role of economic, polit­ ical and social factors. It is clear that population and environmental issues are affected and influenced by socio-economic and political factors at local, national and interna­ tional levels. It is these factors which create the conditions for environmental degra­ dation, poverty and population growth. Proponents of this school of thought recognise that the relationship between population and environment is a complex one, in which the role of the political economy and social organisation is central. Political Economy. The general character of approaches associated with political economy has already been discussed in Chapters 2 and 3. In this chapter we will focus on a couple of specific studies of population-enviroment relations which high­ light the significance of political-economic structures. Harrison (1992) suggested that the human population is part of an enormous economic and political system, which is linked to the natural ecosystem by a whole range of social factors. Using Ehrlich’s formula as a basis, Harrison produced a

Global Crises? Issues in Population and the Environment



A Increased food needs

Out-migration for work

F Added labour (current)

B Increased labour suply

C More idea generators

D Lower interaction costs

G More knowledge-related institutions

Labour investment in land


Improved access to towns external markets

K New aspirations> demand for goods and services

Capital generation

J Private ownership of land

f ►Cap>ital inivestment

L Generation & use of new technology

O Di\versification of tlhe economy

More sustainable dryland management


Figure 4.1: The positive effects of population growth Source: derived from: Tiffen, 1994: 262

systems model which incorporated economic, political and social factors. Figure 4.2 shows that in this model the political economy of a society indirectly impacts on the environment through what he labels the ‘proximate determinants of environmental degradation’, namely consumption and technology. Clearly the economic and politi­ cal environment is crucial in determining whether the positive effects of population growth envisaged by Tiffen et al. (1994) are realised. Among the many economic

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Women’s education

Women’s status

Science & Innovation System

Healthcare Family planning Market System

Contraception Age at marriage

| Fertility [I

Form of Ownership of Resources

I Mortality



Political System



Figure 4.2: Harrison’s political-economy model Source: derived from: Harrison, 1992: 9

variables operating in rural areas of the developing world, three stand out: access to markets; the land tenure system; and migration opportunities. The impact of these on the population-environment relationship are discussed in Box 4.5.

Box 4.5: Economic factors which may produce a Boserupian response to population growth a. Access to markets provides the opportunity for increasing output beyond the consumption needs of the farming family. This favours accumulation which can be reinvested in the farm and increases the flow of new ideas from exter­ nal sources. In addition farms with better access to markets will be more intensively cultivated, since these families enjoy higher prices and elastic demands for their products. This in turn attracts migrants to the region looking economic opportunities. Thus population density is increased giving further impetus to intensification (Pingali and Binswanger 1987). Access to markets can, thus, have a beneficial impact on the populationenvironment situation by intensification and the adoption of good farming practices. b. The land tenure system is of critical importance in determining human response to population growth, with changes in land ownership in turn being

Global Crises? Issues in Population and the Environment


affected by population pressure. Two characteristics of a land tenure system appear to be of the greatest importance: whether land is privately owned and the size of land holdings. Tiffen et a l (1994) found that in accordance with the terms of the agricultural intensification thesis, private rights to land in Machakos had strengthened since 1930 through changes in customary land tenure, and more recently government legislation. Where land was privately owned, the size of land holding and the intensity of landuse were usually inversely related, except where holdings had become so small as to be uneconomical (UN 1991). Where land was not privately owned, it was either open-access land (owned by the government) or common property (rights of access are regulated and enforced by the communities who own it). Open access and common property land systems are widely acknowledged as being disadvantageous in not providing incentives for investment in conser­ vation and productivity raising technologies. In addition, as the land cannot be sold or mortgaged, farmers cannot get access to credit. However the assumption that communal land is prone to overuse, due to the lack of incen­ tives for conservation that it offers, is disputed by Dasgupta and Maler (1990) who argue that local commons are far from open to all, with access subject to strict regulation and control by the community, which is very protective of the resource. c. Labour migration can have positive and negative effects on the populationenvironment balance in rural areas. Boserup (1985) contends that in subSaharan Africa, migration from rural areas is not caused by over population or the marginality of the land in the sending regions, but rather by the lack of markets for agricultural surplus and poor transport infrastructure. As a result, in the sending areas, cultivation based on long fallow systems continue to be dominant and intensification is not attempted. Thus out migration from rural areas does not appear to have a negative impact on landuse and environmental degradation (UN 1991). The positive effects of migration that Tiffen et a l (1994) recorded in Machakos have also been observed in other African countries, including Zambia, where remittances from out-migrants have been positively associated with agricultural invest­ ment and equipment acquisition, with migrants returning with new cultiva­ tion practices and rural enterprises (Hansen 1992). It is suggested that migration can produce benefits to both exporting and importing areas, by altering population densities and by the introduction of new technologies, practices and investment.

Social factors are recognised by Harrison’s model as important in the populationenvironment equation. These social factors focus particularly on gender issues, and include the education of women, the status of women and the work pattern of women. However he clearly attaches these factors to the ‘population’ part of the formula, seemingly not acknowledging that economic and political systems are also affected and altered by social factors. For Harrison population is one of three determinants


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affecting the environment. He suggests that population is part of a system of linkages with interacting effects on each other. However he admits that population is important and is often the dominant factor. Thus Harrison’s model is very much within the neoMalthusian mould. The PPE Spiral Model The complex inter-relationships between population, the political economy and the environment were recognised by UNICEF in 1994 and articulated in the Poverty-Population-Environment (PPE) spiral This model, shown in Figure 4.3, treats PPE problems as a single issue, thus emphasising the reinforcing relationship between the variables. According to the model population growth tends to reinforce poverty, and poverty tends to reinforce population growth, forming a circuit. In turn, poverty forces growing numbers of people into environmentally vulnerable areas and the resulting environmental stress becomes yet another cause of their poverty. A synergistic spiral of increasing population growth, poverty and envi­ ronmental degradation follows. It is not surprising then to find that the poorest 25 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population is concentrated in those areas which have been deforested, overgrazed and, as a result, are suffering serious soil erosion (WCED 1987, 25). An example of this synergistic relationship is demonstrated in Eastern Province, Zambia in Box 4.6.

Box 4.6: The PPE spiral in Eastern Zambia (based on author’s fieldwork, 1995/96) The Eastern Province of Zambia illustrates synergistic relationships of popula­ tion, poverty and the environment in an area of low-to-medium population density but very rapid rate of population increase due to high fertility. The area’s agriculture is dependent on rain-fed cultivation of maize, with ground­ nuts and cotton increasingly being grown for cash. Rainfall is always unpre­ dictable, with a mean of 700-900 mm and a rainy season lasting from November through to March. The area was badly hit by drought in the early 1990s, with 1992/3 recording less than half of the seasonal rainfall norm. Population is increasing at the rate of 4 % per annum, much higher than the national rate of 2.3 %. This is explained by a very high total fertility rate, of 7.1 children per woman; the national rate is 5.6. The farming system of the area relies almost entirely on manual labour, of men, women and children. Technological improvements have been minimal, with very little use of machinery, agricultural chemicals or modem crop vari­ eties, except for cash crops. Labour supply is an absolute constraint on the amount of land that farmers can successfully cultivate using hand-tools: the more children a family has, the more land can be cultivated. Few farmers can afford to buy in labour, so families rely on children, from the age of 6/7, to help with farming tasks. The ‘value’ of children is consequently high and the result­ ant high fertility is being maintained throughout the reproductive age groups. This area illustrates a region where the PPE spiral is evident. The area is one of bush fallow, with, at present, enough reserves of farmland to enable an

Global Crises? Issues in Population and the Environment

THE PPE SPIRAL • High child death rates lead parents to compensate or insure by having many children. • Lack of water supply, fuel and labour-saving devices increases the need for children to help in fields and homes. • Lack of security in illness and old age increases the need for many children. • Lack of education means less awareness of family planning methods and benefits, less use of clinics. • Lack of confidence in future and control over circumstances does not encourage planning (including family planning). • Lack of status for women, often associated with poverty, means women often uneducated, without power to control fertility.



• Unemployment, low wages for those in work, dilution of economic gain. • Increasing landlessness - inherited plots divided and subdivided among many children. • Overstretching of social services, schools, health centres, family planning clinics, water and sanitation services.

» Difficulty in meeting today’s needs means that short-term exploitation of the environment must take priority over long-term protection. > Lack of knowledge about environmental issues and long-term consequences of today’s actions.

• Increasing pressure on marginal lands, over-exploitation of soils, overgrazing, overcutting of wood. • Soil erosion, silting, flooding. • Increased use of pesticides, fertilizers, water for irrigation increased salinization, pollution of fisheries. • Migration to overcrowded slums, problems of water supply and sanitation, industrial waste dangers, indoor air pollution, mud slides.

• Soil erosion, salination and flooding cause declining yields, declining employment and incomes, loss of fish catches. • Poor housing, poor services and * f overcrowding exacerbate disease ' problems and lower productivity, [ENVIRONMENT)



• • • • • •

• Social divisions. Set-backs for democracy, repression,authoritarianism. • Political unrest. Diversion of resources to military. • Refugee problems, Poor investment climate, loss of tourism revenues, etc. internal and international Disruption of health and education services. migration. Disruption of trade and economic opportunity. National and international resources diverted to emergencies.

INSTABILITY The above chart is limited to processes within the developing world. But the PPE spiral is compounded by the industrialised world’s policies in the fields of aid, trade, finance and debt.

Figure 4.3: The poverty-population-environment spiral Source: derived from: UNICEF, 1994: 25



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extensive, low input farming system to preserve livelihoods, provided rainfall is adequate. But other environmental resources are increasingly under stress. Villagers reported that deforestation was becoming serious with fuelwood and thatching materials rapidly diminishing near settlements, with longer searches, usually by women and children, becoming necessary. Soil fertility was declining, especially on older fields, and heavy rainstorms cause soil erosion. Farmers did not contour ridge their land, because they say it took too much labour, but are acutely aware of the need to do so to preserve topsoil and moisture. There is thus increasing pressure on the environment, by people with very little access to technology and little use of purchased inputs such as fertilisers. The deteriorating environment pushed farmers further into poverty; in drought years food supplies dwindled to the point where most families became dependent on food aid. Recovery only occurred following the good rainy seasons of 1996 and 1997. The cash crop planted by most farmers, groundnuts, failed during the years of drought so cash incomes were reduced to zero for the majority of farmers. Drought and the resultant crop failure meant that there was less paid piecework on local farms, a vital source of earnings for poorer households in ‘normal’ times. Thus at the same time, when there was more need for cash to offset the effects of crop failure there was much less cash in circulation precisely because of this environmental shock. Children were encouraged to gather environmental resources such as fuelwood, small mammals and wild fruits to sell at the roadside and at local markets, but this further depleted the environmental resources on which people depended for their livelihoods. This is the ‘short-term exploitation’ of the PPE equation. Poverty and population are thus linked, as shown in the PPE spiral. Fertility is very high in this area, as families strive to insure against poverty and uncer­ tainty. Without labour saving technologies, the value of children as farm and household workers is very high, with children beginning to help out from the age of six and being fully productive by the age of eleven or twelve. Morbidity in this area, already high, has been worsened by HIV/AIDS, which further undermines security. Not surprisingly, children are seen as absolutely essential to the future. In this area poverty is the intervening link between population and the environment.

The Value o f Children to Poor Families. The ‘population’ part of the PPE spiral focuses on high fertility, brought about by many interconnected facets of poverty. The underlying assumption of the model is that children are of value and that this enhances fertility, which results in unsustainable population growth. High fertility, although environmentally unsustainable, is socially and economically rational. The high fertility associated with poor families has been explored by John Caldwell (1976, 1982). His work in sub-Saharan Africa suggested that poor families in fact benefit from having large numbers of children, because in societies where chil­ dren rarely go to school, but instead, help in the home and on the farm, children make

Global Crises? Issues in Population and the Environment


a valuable contribution to the household. Very often by the age of nine, children are producing more than they consume. As a result of his research Caldwell devised a theory entitled the Intergenerational Wealthflows Theory, to explain high fertility amongst poorer people in Africa. This theory is described in Box 4.7. What Caldwell suggests is that poor people make rational decisions in deciding to have large numbers of children.

Box 4.7: Caldwell’s theory of intergenerational wealth flows Caldwell’s (1982) theory of intergenerational wealth flows combines elements of sociological and economic approaches to fertility, but views social change as the precursor and trigger of change in the economic relations within the family, and hence of fertility decline. This theory was constructed primarily on the basis of studies undertaken in developing countries, especially Nigeria, over a number of years. In summary, the theory states that high fertility is maintained by wealth flowing from children to parents within the family. Changes in the relative value and cost of children within the family operate to effect a reversal in the direction of wealth flow, which results in fertility decline. In Caldwell’s view it is the nature of the family that determines the costs and benefits derived from children, the direction of the net wealth flow, and the level of support for high fertility. Caldwell argues that while children undeniably incur costs in the village, which increase as the village economy becomes monetised, and also cause additional work to their mothers when they are young, their returns outstrip their costs. Children begin to perform tasks valued by the household from as early as five years of age, including housework, child minding, collecting and carrying water and fuelwood, helping out on the farm and possibly some income generating activities. Children also represent a guaranteed source of free labour in peak periods and an insurance against depletion of household numbers through high mortality. To the labour and financial help which children provide to their parents must be added the social benefits. Among the social benefits are increased ability of parents to enjoy more leisure to perform highly valued social functions, and the prestige and power that parents derive from a large family (Caldwell 1976: 233).

The notion that high fertility ensues from the rational choice of poor people has been contested on several counts. Cleland and Wilson (1987: 15-16) argue that the avail­ able contemporary evidence does not support Caldwell’s assertion, while Cain (1982) draws on evidence from Asia to suggest that Caldwell ‘has overstated the magnitude of the economic benefits provided by children and underestimated the variability in their economic value within the region that he considers’ (Cain 1982: 159-60). Schultz (1983) and Cain (1982) also criticise Caldwell’s disregard for the principle of economic marginality. In Cain’s words,


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the great majority of the populations of the developing world are poor ...As such, the marginal utility of their income will be higher, the costs of children’s consumption will represent a higher proportion of the family budget, and their behaviour is more likely to reflect constraints rather than choice (Cain 1982: 163).

Cain believes that there must be another explanation, namely that children provide an insurance against risk for poor families. Cain (1982) distinguishes between children as instrumental within two differenti­ ated family strategies: of ‘gain’ and of ‘loss prevention’, or survival. He points out that ‘while Caldwell does not ignore the role of children in providing insurance, particularly physical security, he has focused much more on the opportunities created by children’ (Cain 1982: 163). In other words, he focuses on children as a mechanims of ‘gain’ rather than as ‘loss prevention’. In Cain’s view, the insurance risk value of children is the most important in terms of maintaining high fertility: Unlike child labour and old age security, it is possible to see how the insurance value of children could economically justify large numbers of children (within the limits of natural fertility, that is) in high-risk settings: the combination of uncertain child survival, diverse sources of risk, a premium on sons, and the probability of great loss in their absence could argue for such a reproductive strategy (Cain 1982: 177).

Thus population growth is a response to poverty, an insurance risk strategy in times of stress, but one which is often linked to environmental degradation. Feminist Perspectives. As outlined in Chapter 2, feminist perspectives have profoundly impacted on geography, bringing amongst other things a growing aware­ ness of the significance of the roles that women play in a vast number of geographical processes. Population-environment processes can be included in this list in that over the last 25 years or so, there has been a growing recognition of women’s roles in establishing particular population-environment relations. A basic premise for much of this work has been that women are not only mothers, they are also environmental managers (Dankelman and Davidson 1988; Sen and Grown 1987). Two competing theoretical perspectives have been put forward for the analysis of women and the environment. The first of these is the women and environment approach which grew out of the women and development debate of the 1980s. This approach emphasises the importance of women in their roles as environmental resource managers and their vulnerability to declines in resource availability. This viewpoint advocates the need to develop environmental programmes directed at assisting women, which are parallel to, but separate from, men’s programmes. (See Box 4.8)

Box 4.8: Women and the environment: The Green Belt Movement in Kenya The Green Belt Movement in Kenya is an indigenous grassroots organisation that builds upon the link between women and the environment (see Ofosu et al, 1992). It was founded in 1977 by Dr Wangari Maathai with assistance from the National Council of Women of Kenya. At the time of its founding, soil erosion

Global Crises? Issues in Population and the Environment


and deforestation in Kenya had created an acute shortage of wood, the major source of energy (fuelwood and charcoal) for more than 90 % of the country’s rural population, as well as low-income groups in urban areas. The Green Belt Movement was organised to encourage the planting and management of trees, both to provide fuelwood and to protect the soil. The Movement now includes some 1,000 tree nurseries with more than 50,000 women participating at these sites. In the last ten years more than 7 million trees have been planted, with a survival rate of 70 to 80 percent. Project organ­ isers make tree planting an inome generating activity, especially for women. Millions of tree seedlings have been issued to small-scale farmers, schools and churches. Women are beginning to harvest fuelwood from their own trees, and fruit trees are bearing produce, providing both nutrition and income to the family. The project also promotes organic farming in order to improve soil fertility and food production. The Green Belt Movement, through women’s efforts and initiative in plant­ ing and managing trees, thus contributes to environmental conservation and sustainable rural development. The Movement has been replicated in 12 other African countries.

The second approach is derived from a philosophy which assumes that women have a natural affinity to nature, as opposed to men’s urge to control and manipulate the natural world through science and technology. This approach is known as ecofemi­ nism and suggests that the burden of environmental conservation and regeneration falls squarely on the shoulders of women, with men absolving themselves from envi­ ronmental responsibilities. Advocates of this view seek respect and support for women’s efforts to conserve the environment (Jackson 1993; Joekes et a l 1994). But both these viewpoints are narrow in their conceptualisation of social relations and arguably demonstrate a limited understanding of the complexities and interac­ tions between the genders in the pursuit of livelihoods in a region such as subSaharan Africa. Jackson (1993) and Joekes et a l (1994), for example, have both published detailed critiques of these perspectives. The women and environment approach is criticised for assuming it is in women’s interests to conserve local resources when often these resources are needed immediately in situations of extreme poverty. The work involved in conservation also ignores the demands on women’s time from motherhood and domestic tasks, as well as income generation. The under­ lying assumption is that gender roles are fixed, unchanging and universal. However, this assumption is increasingly being challenged. In the 1990s there was increasing evidence that African men help their female relatives much more than researchers in the 1980s assumed (Cromwell and Winpenny 1993). The ecofeminist school is also widely criticised, for the belief in at least some of its strands, that affinity to nature is biologically determined. This is a contradictory expression of feminism in that it ignores the function of social relations in allocating roles and that women are often subordinate to men (Boserup 1990). It may be women’s status, lack of opportunity

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outside the household and poverty which make them apparently ‘closer to nature’, not their biological make-up. From these criticisms a third view has emerged. This has been labelled a developmentalist perspective by Joekes et a l (1993). This view acknowledged that in many situations women do have primary responsibility for the use of natural resources, such as collecting fuel wood, water and wild foods. However, it accepted that these roles are not so universally ascribed to women as the literature would suggest. Women’s and men’s relationship to the environment is part of general entitlements and capabilities ascribed to individuals by social relations such as gender and class. Thus the wider socio-economic, political and cultural context of gender relations must be considered. There are clearly intervening factors which include access to land and resources, mechanisms of resource allocation and access to health and educational services. There is increasing recognition that the situation is further complicated by the international context of aid, trade and debt. The socio-economic context of gender-environment relationships are shown in Figure 4.4. It is becoming evident that an approach which places gender roles and environmental management

Socio - Economic Context • • • • • • • •

Land tenure and resource control Morbidity and mortality trends Population structure and change Migration and employment Status of women Gender relations Public spending Social welfare provision

• • • • • • • •

Debt aid and poverty Foreign trade incentives Crop and input prices Taxes Crop intensity Technique of production Product mix Industrialization

Gender Roles

Environmental Impact negative/positive

Climatic Factors

Civil Unrest

Figure 4.4: The socio-economic context of gender-environment relationships Source: derived from Barrett and Browne, 1995: 36

Global Crises? Issues in Population and the Environment


in the international, national, regional as well as household context is essential, as they are all interlinked.

Conclusion This chapter has investigated the complex links between what some commentators have argued are the two most pressing global issues of the twenty-first century, namely population and the environment. The chapter has examined a range of alter­ native theoretical perspectives and discussed a series of case studies that demonstrate how the theoretical work can be understood in practice. Some of the specific argu­ ments and features of the Chapter are outlined in Box 4.9.

Box 4.9: Chapter summary and suggestions for further reading This chapter has: -



Shown that despite decelerating rates of population growth in all major global regions, world population numbers are set to increase by about one third over the next 25 years due to inbuilt population momentum Presented and discussed opposing theoretical approaches to the popula­ tion-environment debate, including the Malthusian, neo-M althusian, Boserupian, political economy, synergistic and feminist views Examined the influence of socio-economic factors such as consumption, affluence, technology and poverty Illustrated theoretical viewpoints using case studies drawn from subSaharan Africa.

Useful texts you might wish to explore include: Binns (1995) People and Environment in Africa; Dyson (1996) Population and Food; Zaba and Clark (1994) Environment and Population Change; Marten (2001) Human Ecology and (dare we say it!) Barrett (1992) Population Geography.

The general argument of the chapter has been that theories which focus exclusively on either the influence of population on the environment or, conversely, on the influ­ ence of the environment on population are mistaken. There may hence be no room now for notions of cultural or environmental determinisms once popular in geogra­ phy. Rather what is needed is a recognition that demographic and environmental processes are both affected by and in turn influence socio-economic factors, and it is in the context of this complexity that relationships between population and environ­ ment emerge.

Chapter 5

Nation States and Super-States: The Geopolitics of the New World Order Peter Vujakovic

Introduction One of the major geographical events of the late twentieth century was the disintegra­ tion of the Cold War geopolitical order which dominated the relations between states since the end of World War Two. The bi-polar world of the Cold War, dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union, provided stability which has yet to be fully replaced by a new geopolitical order. This chapter examines a variety of scenarios for the new international political architecture which might replace the former world order. The association of changes in geopolitical orders with the rise and fall of super­ states will be examined, as will the fragmentation and (re)emergence of nation states in the contested space of the new Europe. An outline of the geographical nature of the state and the significance of geopolit­ ical world-orders as frameworks underlying global-scale politics and interstate rela­ tions provides an initial basis for discussion. The study of international relations and geopolitics has generally focused on the interaction between states as mutually exclu­ sive territorial units. Concentration on the territorial state can, however, lead to a disregard for profound processes operating on world politics at other scales, from the local to the global (Agnew and Corbridge 1995). Later sections of the chapter will explore the changing relations between states and their potential roles in creating some future geopolitical order.

Geographical Aspects of the State Power and Knowledge: The State and the Control o f Territory The term state is generally used to describe a bounded space, or territory, which is controlled by a single sovereign power with a monopoly of the means of violence needed to achieve control (Giddens 1985). The existence of a state also implies a formal government, with control over resources and population, which drafts and implements laws, and which defines the criteria for full membership of the state, or citizenship. Taylor (1994) argues that the power of the state is founded on the geographical concept of territoriality. By controlling access to a defined space, the content


Contested Worlds

(resources, population, infrastructure) of the territory can be regulated and fashioned by the sovereign power. The state can be regarded as a ‘power container’ which is able to appropriate a wide range of social functions through territorial control. The main functions of the state can be distilled as the waging of war, the management of the economy, the propagation of national identity and the provision of social services. Mastery of territorial space is built on the control of knowledge. The advent of telecommunication networks in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was a critical factor in the consolidation of the territory of emergent European nation-states, with control of effective communication networks facilitating the regulation of people and resources within a territory, the dissemination of propaganda, and operations of war (see Box 5.1). The development of modem methods of survey and cartography has also been important. Although maps have historically been an important tool of government, from the mid-nineteenth century onwards they became crucial to the control and defence of territory. The Savoy Cadaster, initiated in 1728, became the model for state property surveys throughout Europe. Cadastral maps provide a detailed and rational basis for assessment of taxes and records of ownership (Kain 1993), but also assisted in the control and (re)allocation of land by the state. Cadastral maps, for instance, provided one of the main instruments with which the archetypal nation-state of France dismantled the feudal landscape after 1789. Furthermore, recent advances in survey technologies enhanced the ability of states to gather and control geographical information. The development of satellite remote sensing systems and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are the consummate tools for territorial and military surveillance, providing a small number of technologically advanced states with ability to gather and control knowledge at the global scale. The capability of some states to gather extra-territorial information from space has been viewed as a form of neo-colonialism by Third World states.

Box 5.1: Technical networks and territorial control The development of pre-electric semaphore telegraph in Revolutionary France was a significant factor in the creation of a unified territory and nation state. From its earliest use in 1793 (linking Paris to Lille) the telegraph system had, within fifty years, connected twenty-nine French cities, as well as important international outposts in Mainz and Turin (a network of about 5,000 kilome­ tres) (Mattelart 1994). Similarly, the evolution of railway systems in the 1880s was critical to the territorial integration and economic development of other major European powers, such as the newly unified Germany where former mini­ states were integrated and regional particularities in custom and politics eroded (Henderson 1959). Railways also revolutionised war and the defence of national space. Much of the success of the Prussians in the FrancoPrussian War (1870) can be attributed to the superiority of their communica­ tions systems and their ability to rapidly direct troops and resources to key positions.


Nation States and Super-States

Bal t i c N o r t h

Se a




» Paris





German Empire,1914

• Lyon

Figure B5.1a: Communications system in the German Empire, 1914 The formation of effective supra-national entities, such as the EU, also rely on efficient technical and transport networks. The geographically peripheral states of the EU are clearly at a disadvantage to those which cluster around the socalled ‘Golden Triangle’ of Amsterdam, Brussels and Cologne. Likewise, as the Pacific rim region begins to challenge the Atlantic as the core of the world economy, it is reliant on integrated communications systems such as those provided by submarine fibre optic links between Australia, west coast US and Canada, and Japan, Korea and south east Asia (Forbes 1999).

Contested Worlds



Amsterdam Brussels Cologne Dublin Madrid Rome


Major motorway network




Figure B5.1b: Major motorways in the European Union in the 1990s During the late twentieth century, however, control of information networks has arguably begun to slip away from national governments. The information ‘super­ highway’ and systems of electronic financial transfer mean that national govern­ ments are now much less able to control events within their own territory. New political movements, which transcend the territorial state, such as the ‘green move­ ment’, have also called into question the ability of individual states to control inter­ national affairs (Agnew and Corbridge 1995). Regional forms of political and economic integration, such as the European Union (EU), or the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), can be seen as attempts by governments to retain some form of control over a broader, but still defined territory. The relative success of such trans-state structures mean that it is “premature to proclaim the death of the nation-state” (Yeung, 2003; 105).

Nation States and Super-States


Territorial Integrity: The Spatial Dimension The territorial extent of individual sovereign states varies enormously. The Russian Federation, with a total land area of over 17 million square kilometres, remains the world’s largest single state despite the loss of territory following the disintegration of the Soviet Union (22.4 million square kilometres). At the other end of the scale are the microstates such as the Pacific island states of Tuvalu (24.6 km2) and Nauru (21 km2). The implications of size for territorial integrity and control of strategic resources are by no means simple. Large territory does not, for instance, necessarily imply a wealth of resources. Compare the a number of the larger North African Arab states, with their relatively poor primary resource base, and some of the territorially much smaller, but oil rich Middle East states (Table 5.1). While heavily dependent on a single primary resource, these oil states are able to generate higher per capita GNP and spend much larger amounts on their armed forces, factors which influence inter­ nal stability and the defence of national territory. One of the major predicaments facing states with large territories is the need to secure their borders. This is especially significant for states with poorly populated and potentially resource rich hinterlands. This problem is often addressed by state sponsored settlement policies and the construction of major transport arteries to secure contested frontier zones. Effective control of Imperial Russia’s immense Eurasian territory, for example, involved massive investment in transport infrastruc­ ture. The Trans-Siberian and the Orenburg-Tashkent railways (completed c.1905) were critical to Russia’s determination to expand its influence and retain control of its Asian assets (Hauner 1992; LeDonne 1997). The crucial importance of a strategic communications network was emphasised by the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905. Despite Russia’s defeat, Mackinder (1919) was impressed by Russia’s ability of to move a quarter of a million men over a distance of four thousand miles to fight the war in Manchuria. The defence of Russian territorial integrity remains dependent on the ability to move troops across extremely large distances, and persists as a source of anxiety for contemporary Russian geostrategists. The problem of controlling an extensive hinterland has also been a major factor in the development of geopolitical thinking in South America. For example, post-war Brazilian attitudes towards Amazonia were initially dominated by the concept of ‘living frontiers’ (Hepple 1992). The military, in particular, regarded effective control of the hinterland as critical to the country’s national development, as well as a means of thwarting the territorial ambitions of neighbouring states. The frontier mentality led to expansionist settlement policies for Amazonia, and the improvement of links with the transport system of the core region, for instance, the National Integration Plan (PIN) to construct the Transamazon Highway and other strategic routes (see Foresta 1992; Allen 1992; Phillips and Mighall 2000). The configuration of the territory may also have an impact on the ability of the state to control population and resources. States which are compact in form should, theoretically, provide the least problems. Other forms, for example elongated terri­ tories like Chile or fragmented island group such as Indonesia, may have a number of disadvantages, including extensive border zones or weak central control of hinterlands.

2,381,741 1,002,000 707 17,818

82 109 43 53

Human Development Index (HDI) world ranking (1996) 4,600 2,850 13,100 22,700

GDP per capita ($US) (purchasing power parity) (1998) 4.3 7.6 18.4 9.0

Members of the armed forces per 1,000 of population (1997) 44.6 55.3 462.6 1,592.8

Military expenditure per capita ($US) 1997

Central Intelligence Agency.

S o u rc es : Europa (1999) The M id d le E a st a n d N o rth A fric a 1 9 9 9 (45th edition), London: Europa Publ.; Instituto del Tercer Mundo (1999) The W orld G u id e 1 9 9 9 /2 0 0 0 : A v ie w fo r m the S o u th , Oxford: New Internationalist Publ.; CIA (1999) The W orld F act B o o k 1999, Washington:

Algeria Egypt Bahrain Kuwait

Area (km2)

Table 5.1: Armed forces and military expenditure in selected Arab states 15 8 Contested Worlds

Nation States and Super-States



P IN pioneering highw ays


•Boa Vista


O th e r m ain highw ays

J Macapi


0 [ B e le m /




1________________ i


'Mtaituba - . Z Benjamin Constant


Cruzeiro # do Sul

Joao^ Pessoa


i R io \ i Branco


•~ 'T — *



Cuiaba • Brasilia

Figure 5.1: Brazilian highways Location is also important. Coastal location, for example, provides access to ocean transport routes and to marine resources. However, the delim itation o f maritime boundaries and territorial waters is often com plex and the source o f dispute between states (see Box 5 .2 ). Landlocked states have special problems o f their own. They are dependent on neighbouring states for access to ocean routes which are essential for trade and econom ic development. Prior to the recent changes in the world political map, there w ere tw enty-four landlocked states w orld-w ide (tw elve o f these in Africa), but the number has now risen to thirty-five (including seven ex-S oviet republics in Central Asia).

Box 5.2: Coastal states and control of the seas Control o f the seas adjacent to coastal states has becom e a significant g eop o­ litical issue since the end o f World War Two. The Truman Proclamation o f 1945 set out US claim s to the resources o f the continental sh elf adjacent to its coasts. The Proclamation precipitated a race by coastal states to claim control o f marine resources, and led to a series o f United Nation conferences, culm i­ nating in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law o f the Sea. The convention introduced the notion o f a 2 0 0 nautical m ile (nm ) (3 70k m ) ‘E xclusive Econom ic Z o n e ’ (EEZ) by which the coastal state secures exclusive rights to marine and mineral resources (Meredith et a l , 2000). About a third o f the oceans lie within the EEZs.

Contested Worlds


Declaration of EEZs has triggered disputes between states, principally over fishing rights. There has also been a scramble to claim small outlying islands to legitimate more extensive rights. An interesting example is the dispute between five claimants (China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam) for the Spratly Islands of the South China Seas (Blake 1994), the largest of which is only 36 hectares in size and 2m above sea level. Economically useless in them­ selves, they provide the key to potential oil resources in the surrounding seas. The disputes between the various states have led to violent contestations with, for example, the Chinese sinking of two Vietnamese ships in 1988 (Anderson 1993).


Chi na

Flat Island

Se a

Prince of Wales Bank

Spratly Islands

Palawan I 1


Ardasier Reefs



Paracel °o Islands 0


Occupied by:





Figure B5.2: The Spratly Islands in the South China Sea

+ • ▲ ■ ^

China Vietnam Philippines Taiwan Malaysia

Nation States and Super-States


EEZs are crucial to the economy of island microstates in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Tuvalu, for example, profits from a land to sea ratio of 1 to 30214. The establishment of EEZs have allowed them to control exploitation over rela­ tively large areas of sea, to derive revenue from licensing foreign fleets, and to support local processing of fish products.

The Nation State

The concept of the nation is distinct from, although often connected to, that of the state. In contrast to the concept of the state as a spatialised ‘power container’, the notion of the nation can be seen to involve ‘cultural association’ between people and particular geographical locations or territories. The concept of a ‘nation’ involves people embracing what has been described as an ‘imagined community’ (Anderson 1991a), and according to Hobsbawm (1992) the ‘nation idea’ provides a surrogate for ‘real’ human communities which have been disrupted in the modem world. Smith (1991) divides the concept of nation into two distinct types: a ‘Western model’, based on a legal-political community, common culture and a civic ideology; and a ‘non-Western m odel’ which sees the nation as a community of common descent, a ‘super-family’ or ‘folk’ (see also Ignatieff (1993) who makes a very similar distinction between civic/territorial nationalism and ethnic nationalism). Although both models hold the idea of a national territory or ‘homeland’ in common, the civic model allows transfer of allegiance between nations, while the ‘folk’ model does not. Nationalism is a doctrine that often seeks to connect notions of nation to those of state organisation. The ultimate goal of nationalism is often the creation of a nation­ state in which the territorial extent of a nation is seen to equivalent to the territorial limits of a single unitary state. A nationalist political agenda may arise within a given population for numerous reasons, and a variety of characteristic forms of nationalism can be identified (see Box 5.3).

Box 5.3: Nationalism and the state The genesis of nationalism as a distinct political practice is identified with the late eighteenth century and the French Revolution. Nationalism is essentially a form of politics in opposition to other manifestations of the modern state, particularly the growth of powerful monarchical states in early modem Western Europe (Breuilly 1993). Breuilly (1993) identifies the following forms of nationalism:


Unification nationalism : involves calls to bring together national territo­ ries and states. An example is the unification of the German mini-states during the nineteenth century when an appeal to a common ‘national’ culture and history providing justification for a Prussian led political programme of unification and opposition to the powerful AustroHungarian empire.



Contested Worlds

Separatist nationalism : involves the break up of territorial states in order to

bring them in line with the supposedly national boundaries. Often associated with the collapse of existing states or empires, such as the creation of nation states following the disintegration of the AustroHungarian and Ottoman empires. The rise of separatist nationalism within the Russian Federation (eg. in Chechnya) provides a contemporary example. - Anti-colonial nationalism : ‘liberation’ movements seek to wrest control from a colonial power. Taylor (1993a) differentiates between liberation nationalism involving European settler groups (e.g. the United States) and indigenous groups (e.g. India, Vietnam). Reform nationalism: Originally a reaction to colonial pressures on exist­ ing state structures during the nineteenth century. Chinese nationalists, for instance, accepted the need for reorganization of the political structure of the state to counter external pressures (from Britain and other aggressive imperialist powers). A contemporary variant involves the state in an attempt to redefine its position within the changing world-economy. The present contest between western orientated and ultra-nationalist political groups in Russia may be regarded as a struggle to redefine Russia’s place in the world.

Very few nation-states are composed entirely of a single, ethnically homogenous popu­ lation, although China, Japan and Korea may be possible exceptions (Hobsbawn 1992). In fact, most nation-states have significant national minorities, while some states are essentially multi-national, composed of a variety of national groups and homelands. In many cases nationality may become territorially less than, and subordi­ nate to the state, as was the case in the former Soviet Union, and remains so in the Russian Federation today. Forms of civic nationalism on the other hand, accept and even celebrate variety in its multi-national make-up, as exemplified by Switzerland and the USA. However, attempts to encourage or impose civic nationalism where little or no cultural cohesion exists, or where inter-ethnic tensions are extreme, can often be counterproductive. This is especially true where newly independent states have retained the borders imposed by former colonial powers. The conflict between Tutsi and Hutu groups in Rwanda and Burundi, and the long term conflict between the Muslim Arab north and the Christian/Animist south of Sudan, are cases in point. Historically successful examples of civic nationalism in the ‘developed world’ may even break-down, with consequential problems for people and the economy, when one or more groups feel that they are disadvantaged, such as is argued by some in relation to the French Canadian separatist movement (Kaplan 1994; Lo and Teixeira 1998). In very few cases do inter-ethnic conflicts lead to the creation of new nation-states (Hobsbawm 1992). The fragmentation of Yugoslavia into several new unitary states is unusual (see Figure 5.2). The apparent success of Marshal Tito’s Yugoslavia as an example of post-war civic nationalism concealed ethnic-nationalist tensions that had strong cultural-historical roots in earlier independent territorial states, such as Serbia and Croatia (Box 5.4).

Nation States and Super-States

SLOVENIA 1991 s>-





^KOSOVO 7 1999


Pre 1991 ' Yugoslavia boundary


Post 1991 boundaries




Figure 5.2: Break-up of Yugoslavia

While some commentators see evidence for the decline of nationalism and the nation­ state, events in Europe during the early 1990s suggest that ethnic nationalism remains a potent force in world politics. The nation-state remains a robust dual institution in which two politically powerful territorial concepts, that of a sovereign domain (the state), and a national homeland, are fused together (Taylor 1993). Nation-state and Identity: Myths and Icons Devotion and duty of citizens to the nation-state are enhanced by identification of with specific national symbols or icons. These help to create a sense of belonging to a common culture. Obvious examples of national icons include the flag of state or the national anthem. Another important symbol is the identification of the nation with a real or fictitious person; in Britain, for example, the monarch, John Bull, or Britannia. Other icons include associations of national character with attributes of a specific animal; the British lion, the German eagle, the French cockerel or the Russian bear. National symbols are often created as part of a wider national discourse estab­ lished by the state or nationalist political movements. These form part of ‘invented’ histories and traditions with the aim of creating and maintain state cohesiveness (see Box 5.4). For example, public ceremonies can be created in order to bring people together in communal acts of national identification: Hobsbawm (1983, p.271), for


Contested Worlds

example, argued that Bastille Day was contrived in 1880 to provide ‘an annual asser­ tion of France as the nation of 1789, in which every French man, woman and child could take part’.

Box 5.4: Croatian national iconography and ‘The Sleeping Beauty Complex’ Contemporary Croatian nationalist discourse and iconography provides a vivid example of the forging of a renewed sense of national identity. They fill a void left by the ‘myth’ of ‘Yugoslavism’, which sought to bind disparate ethnic groups of the region within a form of civic national identity. These discourses involve concepts and symbols (flags, coat of arms, national anthem, constitu­ tion) focused on ensuring national cohesion. They also have an external role, justifying Croatia’s place amongst the worlds ‘nations’ and creating a foil to the expansionist territorial ambitions of neighbouring Serbia (a constituent repub­ lic of the rump state of Yugoslavia). The publication of a national atlas of Croatia in 1992 (international English edition, 1993) was an important means of asserting and authenticating the historical links between the Croatian people and the land. Atlases are ‘narra­ tives’ through which the state, citizenship, and nationhood are defined by carto­ graphic evidence of cultural continuity and the struggle of a united people to defend their territory. Maps have always played a crucial role in national deter­ mination in the Balkans (Wilkinson 1951), and the continued importance of cartographic representation is clearly understood by the Croatians. The version of Croatian history outlined in the atlas is an example of a narra­ tive type known as the ‘Sleeping Beauty complex’; a myth based on a ‘golden age of heroes’ followed by period of decline, from which the nation-state awakes to reclaim its proud past. The zenith of Croatia’s cultural and military history is identified with the kingdom that ruled over much of the present terri­ tory of Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina from the tenth to the twelfth centuries (see Vujakovic 1995, Jordan 2004).

Nationalism relies on a potent cocktail of association between a people and a histori­ cal-cultural space. The map, as an expression of this spatial concept, can be critical in this process, not simply in defining the territory of the nation-state, but as an icon representing the bond between people and place. Anderson (1991a) recognises the importance of ‘map-as-logo’, a potent emblem which is instantly recognisable and can be endless reproduced on coins, postage stamps, and other artifacts which are controlled and issued by the sovereign power.

Nation States and Super-States


Geopolitical World Orders Geopolitics is the study of the geo-strategic and geo-economic relations between states (see Agnew, 1998; Tuathail, 1996; Sharp, 1999; Sidaway, 2001 for further discussions). The actions of individual states are not unconstrained, but take place within relatively stable political frameworks or geopolitical world orders , which provide commonly accepted conventions for interstate relations. The conventions by which individual states relate to one another are termed geopolitical codes. Interstate relations during the past few hundred years have been influenced by the rise and fall of a limited number of major powers. These powers have been able to influence the codes of lesser states, creating a pervasive framework for the prevailing geopolitical world order. Sometimes this is realised through a balance of power between the powers, at others, a single state may achieve hegemony (military and economic pre-eminence) and determine the geopolitical order, such as Pax Britannica , the period of relative peace and free trade under British leadership in the mid-nineteenth century. However, such periods of relatively stability are often punc­ tuated by phases of uncertainty. History suggests that hegemonic state will come to be challenged, as Britain was confronted by Germany at the beginning of the twentieth century, and the Soviet Union contested US hegemony after World War Two. A variety of explanations have been offered for the ascendency and decline of major powers and hegemonic states. Paul Kennedy’s (1988) classic survey of the situ­ ation from the end of the fifteenth century seeks to explain it in terms of the balance between wealth creation and military power. If a hegemonic state over-extends itself, by over rapid expansion of colonial territories, or involvement in expensive wars, the benefits may be outweighed by the costs, and the state may enter a period of relative decline, to be succeeded by a new hegemon. Other explanations seek to link the rise and fall to cyclical events in global politics and economics (e.g. Modelski’s political iong cycle model’, or Wallerstein’s world-system approach, in which cycles of hege­ mony are related to long waves in the world economy (for discussion of these approaches see Taylor and Flint 2000; Agnew and Corbridge 1995, as well as Chapter 3. The Cold War Geopolitical Order

The German challenge to British hegemony in the twentieth century resulted in two global wars from which neither emerged as the dominant super-state or hegemon. The USA, instead, assumed this role as the only major power to emerge from the conflict with a robust, undamaged economy; in 1945 the USA accounted for over fifty percent of world manufacturing output. However, its position was immediately contested, ideologically and militarily, rather than economically, by the Soviet Union. This created a period of heightened world tension, in which the stand-off between the two superpowers was characterised as (the) Cold War, as opposed to a ‘hot war’ of armed conflict. The USA, as hegemon, framed a geopolitical discourse of ‘containment’ of the threat of ‘Soviet expansionism’ that dominated the geopolitical order during the period. The Cold War, nevertheless, provided relative stability within the global political system for nearly five decades. Where wars were fought, they


Contested Worlds

were regional rather than global, often involving client states of the superpowers; for example, US attempts to contain expansion of Soviet sponsored communism in south-east Asia between 1969 and 1975. While the Cold War can be interpreted as a period of confrontation, it also provided clear political benefits to both of the major protagonists in their attempts to maintain their dominant positions (Taylor and Flint, 2000). Internationally, it enabled them to orchestrate the geopolitical codes of their allies and to maintain strong bloc cohesion, it also diverted concern away from massive inequalities between the devel­ oped and less developed regions of the world. The geopolitics of the Cold War were not universally accepted. A grouping of states, mainly from the so-called ‘developing world’, created the non-aligned move­ ment as a potential ‘third force’ in world politics. The philosophy of the non-aligned movement was not one of neutrality, but the promotion of an active international policy and an ‘independent political space’ (Dodds, 2000) to protect its members from the interference of the major power. The economic collapse of Soviet communism at the end of the 1980s contributed to the ending of the Cold War. The massive arms race between the super-powers had distorted their economies, but only the US was able to survive the impact of the debt created by military spending. For all practical purposes the Cold War ended with the USSoviet summits in Reykjavik in 1986 and Washington in 1987 (Hobsbawm 1994). Post-Cold War Geopolitics

The rapid and unexpected changes in world politics since 1989, especially the disin­ tegration of the Soviet Union, require a radical rethinking of the future state of global politics. The collapse of the Cold War bi-polar world-order , based on the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, has created a void which has not yet been demonstrably filled by a US dominated New World Order . The end of the Cold War cannot be seen simply as a victory for capitalism over Marxist-Leninism; the breakdown of the Soviet system was paralleled, if not pre-dated, by a period of rela­ tive US political and economic decline. It is for this reason that the Cold War is unlikely to be replaced by a stable world system completely dominated by the US, although its economy has recovered since the late 1990s. The transition to a new, stable geopolitics is yet to happen. A range of scenarios exist, which can be summarised as follows. Scenario 1: continuation of a geopolitical system characterised by competition for

world hegemony between two or more super-states. This may, in the short term, take several forms: a) A unipolar world, in which the USA maintains its hegemonic position largely unchallenged. b) A bipolar world, in which there is a challenge to US hegemony from another super-state. c) A multi-polar system, in which several super-states compete for pre-eminence, or create a balance of power. This itself may take a number of forms, for example, a division into global zones (e.g. ‘Pacific Rim’ versus a ‘greater Europe’).

Nation States and Super-States


Scenario 2: Increasing globalisation of the world system may lead to improved inter­ national cooperation and increasing interdependence or One Worldism , with a conse­

quent decline in the territorial state as a key actor in international relations. Scenario 3: Decent into chaos, in which localism , regional conflict , and ethnic nationalism undermine the ability of states to control people and territory. The

security situation in Europe has already been complicated by the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it the dismantling of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation (WTO) (although the extension of NATO membership has gone someway to fill this void), and the creation of numerous new independent states in European and Central Asian. The following three sections will explore each of these possible futures in turn. Pax Americana - A New Unipolar World Order?

A post-Cold War world in which the USA maintains its hegemonic position, despite some fluctuations in its economic fortune, is a possibility. However, totally stable world system dictated by US interests, a ‘Pax Americana', is unlikely to evolve as the events of 11 September 2001 and its aftermath indicate. The U S’s relative economic decline during the later twentieth century must also be viewed in terms of the massive artificial lead it had at the end of World War II and its subsequent international role. The US accounted for roughly one half of world industrial output in 1945, the economies of the other major powers having been devastated by the war. Following the war, US military spending and overseas commitments diverted investment from national economic development, while its rivals (particularly Germany and Japan) were able to invest heavily in industry. However, upgrading of US manufacturing industry and development of new tech­ nologies since the late 1980s have provided the US with the capacity to maintain its position against economies like Japan, which are now suffering problems of their own. The US has also shown itself willing to use its military strength to protect its inter­ ests and to act as a global policeman. The United Nations intervention following Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait seemed to provided a clear message that the Cold War stand-off in international relations had been replaced by co-operative action under US leadership. The Gulf conflict afforded a perfect opportunity for the US to script a geopolitical discourse of an American led ‘New World Order’ (Sidaway 1998; and see Box 5.5).

Box 5.5: Scripting the New World Order The 1991 Gulf War and the 1997 NATO intervention in Kosovo were both presented by the western media as a police action against a renegade state, which had demonstrated a serious threat to the New World Order. Such conflicts confirmed the pivotal role of Anglo-American domination of both


Contested Worlds

military technologies and international news flows (Taylor. 1992). The US managed to engineer a widespread, although not universal, reading of its actions as those of an altruistic world power, providing leadership and the strength of will to enforce a New World Order, even at the possible expense of its own interests. The myth of a New World Order was made acceptable to western publics by representation of the conflict in clinical terms, particularly the imagery of ‘smart weapons’ and ‘surgical strikes’ which pin-pointed military targets and avoided civilian deaths. The US had learned the lessons from the Vietnam War in which the media came to be regarded as the ‘enemy within’, undermining public resolve. In the Gulf, the media was totally reliant on the military for its information. Despite the appearance of pluralism, based on a wide range of editorial and journalistic styles, the world was essentially presented a single story. To accept the myth of a New World Order uncritically would be to ignore competing discourses. The 1991 Gulf War, and the events of 11 September 2002 onwards, demonstrate the potential for global fractures along NorthSouth lines, based on Islamic resistance to US cultural and economic imperial­ ism. In 1991, Saddam Hussein received widespread support amongst Moslem populations (if not governments) which must be understood in terms of his willingness to stand up to ‘the West’ (Ahmed 1992), and despite his removal in 2003, it appears that radical Islamic groups are still prepared to oppose US intervention in Iraq, for example terrorist attacks on Iraqi polling stations during the first free elections in January 2005.

The message of the first Gulf War has nevertheless been diluted by subsequent events, particularly the US’s inability to provide clear leadership in Somalia or the Balkans, or the failure of the ‘subtle truncheon’ of ‘precision w arfare’ (Vujakovic, 2001) to limit the loss of innocent lives during the NATO intervention in Kosovo. The cost of having to plan for an enormous range of military contingencies was, for a while, called into question. In the presidential debates of 2000, George W. Bush Jnr (Republican) argued that the US should use military force only under limited conditions, where vital national interests were under threat, while Al Gore (Republican) favoured intervention in a wider range peace-keeping type activities; Bush won the presidency (Houghton, 2002a). This view was, however, radically revised following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the New York World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. The US again showed itself willing to take up the mantle of global policeman in the so-called ‘war against terrorism’, which included ousting of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan (2002) and the removal from power of Saddam Hussein in Iraq (during the second Gulf War, 2003) - although it could be argued that was simply a reaction to attacks on US interests rather than a genuine return to a wider role in international politics. While the US has been superficially successful in the ‘war against terrorism’, it has been unable to impose real and stable

Nation States and Super-States


peace on these regions, which remain unstable; more US soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the end of the 2003 war than during it. If the US retains supremacy, it is likely to be because it diverges from the conven­ tional form of a hegemonic state. Its real power has been institutionalised within a wide range of international organisations (e.g. the IMF, GATT, the World Bank) and via its material culture, represented by Ritzer (1993) as the MacDonaldisation of the world (see Crang 1998). Through these the US has pervaded the globe and enmeshed and constrained the activities of other states (Agnew and Corbridge 1995). However, some commentators have questioned the US’s ability, rather than its willingness, to police a free trade order in which its economy looms large (Houghton, 2002b). Emergence o f New Super-state Challengers

Such interpretations of the New World Order raise questions such as: ‘are there any prospects of individual states or groupings of states being able contest US hege­ mony?’ and ‘what factors might favour some states over others?’. Taylor (1993) notes that the history of hegemonic states has been one of ever-increasing size, culminating in the ‘continental-scale’ of the USA - could this be reproduced by a political group­ ing of states such as the European Union? Parker (1983) identified a number of key geographical factors which he believed had contributed to the super-power status of the USA and the former Soviet Union: a) Both held very considerable territories (USA 9 million square kilometres; USSR 22 million square kilometres) b) Relatively large total populations, but low population densities c) Core areas served by extensive hinterlands with major reserves of strategic resources d) Relatively homogenous physical and climatological conditions centred on mid­ latitude climatic belts e) A single elite in a dominant position within a diverse ethnic/linguistic population; ‘WASP’ (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) in the US, Muscovite Russian in the Soviet Union. While these criteria may provide a baseline against which to judge potential super­ states, there is a danger that this approach may lead to new forms of ‘geographical determinism’ (Smith 1992), in which other critical factors are ignored. The rise of Japan to potential super-power status in the late twentieth century, was premised not on territorial size and an extensive resource base, but on its economic power and lack of military commitments. At least five leading contenders for hegemonic status can be identified, each of which will be briefly discussed in turn. China - Global Megapower? China’s massive territory and population, together with recent impressive economic growth rates, clearly place it in a position to play an important role in global affairs. The present political structure of China owes much to its relationship with other world powers during the last one hundred years. The decline of the Manchu (Ch’ing) dynasty during the nineteenth century provided the conditions in which the rival imperialist powers of Europe, together with


Contested Worlds

Japan, competed for access to China’s large but poorly developed hinterland. This rivalry, particularly between the regional powers of Russia and Japan, led to war and occupation of Chinese territory. Prior to World War Two, the strategically important region of Manchuria was occupied, first by Russia (1900-05), and then by Japan (1905^5). The Japanese ‘puppet-state’ of Manchukuo, formed in 1932, provided the spring-board for the Japanese invasion of further Chinese territory, including Peking (Beijing) during World War II. The victory of the Communists over the Chinese Nationalist forces following the war, ensured that a single state apparatus assumed control of the vast majority of China’s population and territory for the first time since the beginning of the century. The Cold War provided China with a period of relative stability, during which each of two super-powers - the US and the Soviet Union - saw it in their interests to main­ tain a unified China. Until the mid-1960s, the Soviets regarded China as an ‘antiAmerican’ force while the era of rapprochement with the USA, initiated by President Nixon in the 1970s, led to China being seen there as a ‘counterweight’ to the Soviet Union (Friedman and Lebard 1991). China took full advantage, particularly from the late 1970s under Deng Xiaopeng, to develop its economy and export trade. China achieved annual average growth in real GDP of 7.8 per cent during 1976-85, rising to over 13 per cent in 1993 (compared to USA, 3.1 per cent; Japan, 0.1 per cent) (IMF 1994), although growth had dropped to 7.1% by the end of the twentieth century (Turner, 2003). The fact that from the 1990s more than 5,000 enterprises have been allowed to trade directly with foreign companies, compared to the ten official trading corporations through which trade was channelled in 1979, is indicative of the opening up of China to the world economy (Edwards 1999). The tenth Chinese ‘five year plan’ (2001-5) and its ‘Long Term target for 2010’ continues to concentrate efforts on economic restructuring. Some anxiety has been expressed about whether China’s success as an economic power will be translated into the creation an aggressive military super-state in the Far East. This is unlikely for a number of reasons, foremost of which is the relatively low priority given to building military capability since the 1970s. In fact, spending on the armed forces fell from about 17.4 per cent of GNP in 1971, to 7.5 per cent in 1985, which Kennedy (1988) attributes to Deng’s conviction that defence should be fourth in priority of China’s ‘four-modernizations’, being placed behind agriculture, indus­ try and science. Defence expenditure in 2000 had fallen still further to 5.3% of GDP (Turner, 2003). Table 5.2 provides a comparison of the defence expenditure of the major contenders for super-power status. Another important factor is the increasingly close ties with which China is binding itself to its immediate neighbours, and more recently to Russia. Any confrontation within the region is likely to be economically disastrous for the Chinese. China has been more concerned to encourage regional cooperation, while stressing the likely threats to the region if its economy were to collapse; the ‘nightmare’ scenario of mass-migration (Cable and Ferdinand 1994). According to Cohen (1973) China, because of cultural concepts of the boundedness of place, is unlikely to seek direct control of areas that are not deemed to be ‘Chinese’. It therefore appears that while China is likely to exert a profound global economic influence, it is unlikely in the short term to challenge the US for geopolitical hegemony.

Nation States and Super-States


Table 5.2: Potential Super-Powers? - Defence expenditure, 2000 Super Power

China Japan Russia Germany

Total (million $US) 41,167 44,417 58,810 28,229

Per capita ($US)

% per capita

32 351 400 343

5.3 1.0 5.0 1.6

Source: Turner, B. (ed.) (2003) The Statesman’s Yearbook: The Politics, Cultures and Economies o f the World, Basingstoke: Palgrave

Japan - A Post-Hegemonic Power Throughout the late twentieth century Japan was

seen as the natural successor, particularly in economic terms, to the US. Japan’s demilitarised status, enshrined in Article 9 of its constitution, and its protection under a US strategic umbrella, enabled it to invest in modernising its industries, giving it a direct competitive advantage over the US with its problems of ‘global overstretch’. Defence expenditure in 2000 represented only 1.0 of GDP (compare with other potential super-states; table 5.2). Japan’s potential as a global super-state would appear to hinge not on ‘hard’ power (military hardware), but on the ‘soft’ power of non-military influence, exercised, for example, through its prominent position within the IMF and the World Bank. Japan’s economic power, acquisition of European and American companies and penetration of foreign markets during the second half of the last century has been phenomenal; by the early 1990s twenty-nine and thirty-four of the world’s largest 100 banks and companies, respectively, were Japanese (Kennedy 1993). Japan’s economic status has, however, been put to the test, caught as it is between increasing costs at home and competition from the Newly Industrialised Countries (NICs) of south-east Asia (Freedman 1999; see also Chapter 8). The Japanese economy also suffered badly during the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s, and is in need of major restructuring (especially of its banking sector) to transform it from a risk-reducing economy, to a risk-taking economy capable of competing with the other new industrialising economies of the region. The real GDP growth rate was -1.0% in 2001, but despite this, Japan still had the second highest GDP (after the US) in the world at the beginning of the twenty-first century (Turner, 2003). These economic factors are also exacerbated by an ageing population, high population density, and a poor territorial resource base. It is estimated that the children bom at the turn of the century will incur a tax burden two and a half times present levels simply to maintain the state’s welfare systems (Freedman 1999). In geopolitical terms, Japan is more likely to seek a key position within a cooperative international system, rather than seek to replace the US as the global hegemon. This is a strategy that appears to be more likely to sustain the present world economic order from which Japan has generally benefited (Inoguchi 1987; cited in Takagi 1993). It has been suggested that, despite the financial and economic crisis in the industrialised states of Asia from the mid-1997, the long-term development of the region is unlikely to be


Contested Worlds

hindered, and we may see the transition to a ‘Pacific century’, in which the Pacific will replace the Atlantic as the core of the world economy (Forbes 1999). What geopolitical implications might follow from such a shift at present remains uncertain. Russia - A t The Crossroads The disintegration of the Soviet empire produced a large number of new unitary states within Eastern Europe and central Asia. Of these successor states, only the Russian Federation can be regarded as a possible hege­ monic contender and the only one that still fulfils the criteria outlined by Parker (1983). Other states, such as the Ukraine, may emerge as significant regional powers. Russia’s potential to remain a significant rival to the US depends, however, on the degree to which the problems that contributed greatly to the collapse of the Soviet state continue to impede the new state. The collapse of the Soviet state appears to stem in large part from the deterioration of its economy from the 1960s onwards, arguably induced by a lack of industrial modernization, together with high military spending (see also Chapter 9). It should also be noted that the Soviet Union’s economy was in many senses ‘underdeveloped’, right from the initiation of Communist rule (see Phillips and Mighall, 2000). Attempts at political and economic ‘liberalisation’ in the late 1980s were insufficient to halt the collapse and it has been argued that Russian economic security is likely to be increasingly determined by its relationship with the West, and particularly with regard to the levels and direction of inward investment from the US and Europe. The loss of the territory, trade, and resources of the former Soviet republics (Russia’s so called ‘Near Abroad’) is also likely to hamper Russia’s economic progress. In response to changes in the region, Russia’s internal security service set up a special department to promote Moscow’s interests in the Near Abroad, and allegedly, to destabilise those which it deems hostile (Adams 1994). A flagging economy also undermined Soviet attempts to thwart the centrifugal forces of ethnic nationalism by creating the illusion of a Sovetskii narod, a unified Soviet people. In 2000, it was estimated that 35% of Russia’s population were living below the poverty line (up from 21% in 1997) (Turner, 2003). This problem may continue to persist within the Russian Federation where, unlike many of the other former republics, the population lacks a clear national identity. Although dominated by Russians (81.5%; 1989 census), much of the territory is the homeland of many other distinct ethnic groups (Smith 1985; Turner, 2003). Russia appears now to be at a crossroads, it can either continue to liberalise and integrate within the world economy, or relapse into a ‘fortress state’ mentality, dependent on the territorial resources of a regional empire (see later discussions of pan-regions). This represents a traditional dichotomy in Russian thinking between westernisers and Slavophile Eurasianists (Adomeit 1995). A renewal of pan-slavist ideals might ultimately take the form of forcible annexation of territory presently outside of the Federation (Yanov 1987). While this scenario is unlikely to occur within the near future, further deterioration of economic conditions in Russia could result in an ultra-nationalist government with pretensions to a pan-slavic ‘Greater Russia’ (See Box 5.6).


Nation States and Super-States

Box 5.6: Mapping a Greater Russia In early 1994 the ultra-nationalist Russian politician Vladimir Zhironovsky provided a geopolitical vision o f the future o f Europe that had much in com m on with the spheres o f influence agreed by the Soviet Union and Germany in 1939. His vision was o f a Europe divided between a Greater Russian and a Greater Germany.

I /




Baltic Sea







Czech Republic 4

Slovakia Austria Hungar Slovenia/Romania

Black Sea

SERBIA\ BULGARIA Italy Macedonia Albania 200 km |

Greece \


Figure B5.6: Zhironovsky’s vision for Europe Poland would again be repartitioned. Germany would acquire Austria, the C zech R epublic and S loven ia, w h ile R ussia w ould retake the Ukraine,


Contested Worlds

Moldova, the Baltic republics, and possibly, Slovakia. He also supported the annexation of Macedonia, and parts of Greece and Turkey by a Greater Bulgaria (Mather 1994). The Zhironovsky Blok received only 6% of the vote in the 2000 national elections, but ultra-nationalist ideologies are likely to remain a potent force in Russian politics (see Chapter 8).

Whatever the long-term economic and geopolitical outlook for Russia, it is likely remain a significant regional power within Europe and Asia. Its continued ability to influence world events is also illustrated by its influence during the recent Balkan conflicts, reviving the boast of Catherine the Great’s chancellor that, ‘not a single cannon in Europe would dare fire a shot without our permission’ (Yanov 1987:8). It is also interesting to note the development of closer relations between Russia and the US since 11 September 2001, as both states focus on the issue of terrorism, whether this emanates from Chechnya or Afghanistan. Europe as Super-State - ‘Pax Bruxellana* The history of the European Union (EU)

can be seen as an explicit strategy to bind the states of western Europe, particularly Germany, into a community of economic cooperation based on a candid philosophy of peace, or a Pax Bruxellana (Galtung 1973). However, it may also be viewed as an attempt to rebuild a Eurocentric world based on a European super-state. This would redress the loss of European power in the post-war period, a period in which the centres of power became located outside of the region, in Washington and Moscow. Moreover, this super-state would form the core of a unicentric Europe, with its centre in the west (Figure 5.3) In quantitative terms the EU fulfils few of Parker’s (1983) criteria for super­ power status. It is effectively a densely populated core area without a resource rich hinterland. However, strong links with former colonies, such as trading relation­ ships with the ACP states (African, Caribbean and Pacific) via the Lome Convention, provide a surrogate hinterland. A more radical development would be the creation of closer ties and the formation of a ‘Eurafrican’ or ‘Europe-Maghreb’ pan-region (see below). The form that a European state may take will depend on the issue of national sover­ eignty. One option would be a sw/?ra-national, ‘United States of Europe’, in which citizens owe allegiance to the super-state as the sovereign entity. This reflects a French sponsored vision of Europe, based on universalist principles of a civic nation­ state (Weaver 1995). However, any such unitary state structure is likely to be hampered by the lack of a single dominant national/cultural group, and competition for leadership between several assertive nations. A more likely outcome is an m/ra-national model, in which nations, or even regions, are the critical level of identity for their citizens. However, this second model is less likely to provide the characteristics of a traditional territorial state, especially in terms of foreign policy and defence. In fact, the emergence of regionalism (a ‘Europe of the regions’) may even begin to undermine the role of existing territorial states. For example, the Four Motors project, which involved the regions of BadenWuttemberg (Germany), Rhone-Alps (France), Catalonia (Spain) and Lombardy

Nation States and Super-States


~ j EU members (from 1995) H EU members (from 2004) Other states wishing to join





jLithuanisT UK ;



.Czech Rep. France Austria

Hungary Romania'

iS p a in B






1_________________ I


Figure 5.3: Make-up of the European Union (Italy) exploited hi-tech com m unications system s to develop research, econom ic and cultural links with little reference to their respective state capitals (Ascherson 1992). This challenges the notion o f Europe as a ‘state-like’ structure and it has even been suggested that the EU is a ‘polym orphic’ postm odern political entity, the existence o f which highlights the inadequacies o f the traditional m odel o f the state (Bretherton and Vogler 1999). Its ‘polym orphic’ nature makes it difficult, however, to assess the eventual contribution that the EU w ill make as a global actor and potential super-power. The issue o f ‘w idening’ versus ‘deepening’ o f the EU will also affect the develop­ ment o f any state-like structures at the European level. The end o f the Cold War has increased the need to widen the EU to include the former satellite states o f the Soviet Union such as the Czech Republic and Poland. This may help to provide security and econom ic stability in Europe as a whole, but is likely to involve considerable econom ic costs (see Chapter 7) and may hinder any deepening o f political integration (Stares 1992). The accession o f ten central and eastern European countries (CEECs in ‘Eurospeak’) w ill add about 28 per cent to the EU population, but only increase its GNP by less than 4 per cent (McCormick 1999). Following Parker(1983), one might suggest this combination is particularly likely to retard the formation o f a super-state


Contested Worlds

structure capable of competing for hegemony in the foreseeable future. Although, as Buchan (1993) points out, the EU is ‘the only one of the world’s superpowers that is likely to increase in importance by the simple virtue of considerably, but legally and peaceably, increasing its territory’ (p. 8; emphasis added). The German Question The post-war settlement in Europe created a divided Germany, frozen into opposing super-power camps and unable to threaten the rest of Europe. Reunification did, however, refuel concern about Germany’s ambitions within Europe, especially its intentions towards central and Eastern Europe, and its capability as a global actor. While much of this concern focused on Germany’s economic role, as an industrial super-state dominating Europe, resurgent nationalism has created anxiety in both Germany and her neighbours (see Box 5.7). Much of the escalation in neo-Nazi activity and xenophobic extremism has arisen from the political immaturity and social unrest in East Germany. The reunified Germany remains an important economic power despite the problems of integrating the less efficient East German economy. Commitment to transfer resources from the prosperous west should eventually result in a stabilisation of both the social and economic situation in the east.

Box 5.7: Mapping the ‘Forth Reich’ - Scripting the German threat The ‘German question’ is profoundly influenced by the manner in which Germany’s past has been represented. The images (stereotypes and metaphors) used by politicians, foreign policy makers and the news media invariably make reference to Germany’s expansionist history. While much of the debate focuses on Germany as an ‘economic giant’, its potential to become a military super­ state is an intrinsic aspect of a wider European geopolitical discourse which aims to tie Germany ever more closely to its European economic partners in the EU and its allies in NATO. A potent element in news media discourse concerning Germany during the 1990s was the use of organic analogies of the state by the news media (Vujakovic 1993). These treat Germany, in historic terms, as an aggressive organism, in competition with other states for territory and resources. Paired or multiple maps have been used to contrast the reunified Germany with former manifestations that have threatened the balance of power in Europe (see Figure B5.7). These images resonate with ideas from Germany’s recent past. In the 1930s the theories of both the school of Geopolitik and the Nazi movement were informed by Darwinian concepts of the state espoused by the geographer Friedrich Ratzel. Ratzel regarded the competition for territorial control between states as comparable to the struggle for space found in nature. His concept of Lebensraum or ‘living space’ provided a purportedly ‘scientific’ legitimation for aspirations to create a pan-German state, with expanded terri­ tories in the east. Propaganda maps were used extensively to emphasise the vulnerability of Germany’s position (due to territorial losses after WWI) and to argue for sufficient space for all German peoples, based on German cultural dominance throughout central Europe (Herb 1989).

Nation States and Super-States


f ' J: Denmark) G




Russian Empire



Russian Empire






Istanbul^ — ■ —



Mediterranean Sea

Figure B5.8: Black Sea Economic Co-operation Zone

Galtung suggested a number o f outcom es based on multiple power foci. One scenario envisages a less stable world o f com petitive super-states, each vying for econom ic advantage, with potentially disastrous consequences for poorer countries caught-up in these conflicts (Galtung 1973). He made the important point that a two superpower system is likely to be less unstable than a future multi-power system in which there

Contested Worlds


are opportunities for a wider range of ‘conflict configurations’; as an example, he postulated a clash between Japan and western Europe over the economic ‘spoils’ of the US empire in South America. With two superpowers a single prevailing conflict can be successfully ‘institutionalised’, as occurred during the Cold War. US and European anger over Japanese import restrictions in the 1980s and threatened trade wars between the USA and China or Europe in early 1990s could be regarded as symptomatic of a fragmenting global economic system. Conflict could lead to another scenario postulated by Galtung, in which individ­ ual super-states attempt to dominate a specific region of the world in an effort to create the conditions needed for economic self-sufficiency and the defence of strategic resources. This scenario could lead to a modern version of pan-regions (see Box 5.9).

Box 5.9: Pan-regions A classic attempt to create a pan-region originates from the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 by which the United States assumed the dominant role in the Americas and sought to exclude all European interference. The establishment of a pan­ region is an attempt by a dominant state to achieve economic self-sufficiency (autarky) by exerting exclusive control over the resources within an extensive territorial unit. The German school of Geopolitik (1930s) advocated a division of the world into three major pan-regions, dominated by Germany, the United States and Japan.




Figure B5.9: The pan-regions of the world

Nation States and Super-States


A world divided into pan-regions may not simply be a matter of academic specu­ lation. O’Loughlin and van der Wusten (1993) note that real anxieties exist concerning renewed developments of this type. They point to the reluctance on the part of the EU to allow Germany to become the undisputed leader of the community, and a similar unease among some states of South East Asia concern­ ing Japanese economic dominance based on a latent ‘yen bloc’ encompassing Seoul, Sydney and San Francisco (O’Loughlin and van der Wusten 1990).

Another possible outcome of the unfreezing of the Cold War bi-polar world, is a global realignment on economic rather than ideological lines. Possible examples might include the Pacific Rim which would include such super-states as China, Japan and the US, counterpoised by a Greater Europe involving the EU and Russia (Wallerstein 1983), although this currently seems unlikely. Galtung’s final scenario stresses the possibility of a rupture along north-south lines into world classes. The Cold War geopolitical order, with its emphasis on east-west relations, had deflected attention from north-south issues, although China had professed leadership of the Third World during this period. The demise of state communism as a competing global ideology has created a vacuum that some commentators believe might be filled by the ascendancy of Islam, ‘as the spearhead of any future revolt of the periphery’ (Taylor 1983a; p89). The events of 11 September 2001 indicate the strength of the opposition of some Islamic groups to US hegemony, however, according to Mestrovic (1994) Islam is unlikely to completely replace the East-West legacy of geopolitical order of the Cold War, in that divisions within the Islamic world are of such an extent that they appear likely to undermine the formation of a united front against the West in the foreseeable future. A New World Disorder? A variety of potentially destructive centrifugal forces can be seen acting against a liberal global consensus. Chief amongst these is the resurgence of aggressive ethnic nationalism that threatens to create a fragmented international state system built on distrust and xenophobia. Equally disquieting is evidence that many regions of the world are disintegrating into a state of chaotic ‘localism’. The collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have led to the (re)creation of a large number of nation-states based on ethno-territorial consciousness which had been held in check by the Cold War geopolitics. The potential for further inter-ethnic conflict throughout Europe and Central Asia has greatly increased since the end of the Cold War. While the Soviet Union existed, it maintained a dual approach to managing its ‘nationalities problem’: a long-term policy of complete assimilation through the creation of a community of the ‘Soviet people’, was conjoined with a pragmatic recognition of existing national identities. However, with this structure removed, ethnic and irredentist conflicts have arisen both within the new Russian Federation and in the newly independent republics. Examples include, the attempt by Chechnya, in Central Asia, to secede from Russian control, or the declaration of a Trans-Dnestria republic by ethnic Ukrainians and Russians living in the eastern part of the newly


Contested Worlds

independent republic of Moldova (formerly Soviet Moldavia), which is culturally Roumanian. Similarly, in Yugoslavia, the post-war communist government created a relatively successful federal structure within a one party state, based on a system of six republics and two autonomous provinces which took account of ethnic diversity. However, this attempt to create a balance between ethnic consciousness and loyalty to the Yugoslav state backfired when multi-party elections were introduced in 1990. The new parties tended to develop along ethnic nationalist lines within the home republics, particularly in Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia culminating in the break-up of Yugoslavia (Breuilly 1993). The collapse of the Cold War geopolitical order reactivated a geopolitical ‘fault zone’ in the Balkans, in which historic conflicts between nationalities threatened to draw in major powers, such as Russia and Germany, which have interests in the region. Germany’s precipitous advocacy of international recognition of Croatia and Slovenia as independent states in 1991 has been seen by some commentators as part of a strategy to recreate Mitteleuropa (a distinctive central European cultural, politi­ cal and economic zone) under German mentorship. Glenny (1991), for example, regarded the German position as part of a wider power struggle with the US and Japan for leadership of the New World Order. At the same time Germany extended its regional political and economic influence from Western Poland, through Bohemia and Moravia, to the western Balkans, further emphasising the historical splits between the western Catholic and eastern Orthodox Europe. This split is one of several suggested in ‘The Clash of Civilizations’, by Samuel Huntingdon (1993), in which the author argued that the new international (dis)order will be dominated not by the political-economic ideologies characteristic of the Cold War, but by a clash of world cultures, in part motivated by growing anti-Western sentiment. In Huntingdon’s view, Sinic (Chinese) and Islamic culture loom large as alternative global influences, while Europe is split along the Western-Orthodox fault-line. His thesis is however contested as being simplistic, failing to recognise the complexity of interactions between cultures and the heterogeity within them (Agnew 1998; Dodds, 2000). A crisis of geopolitics would be further deepened if the world enters a period of anarchic ‘localism’, characterised by chaos and violence associated with a weakening of the power of state. The state, particularly in parts of the Third World, has become powerless to intervene as local groups take forcible control of territory and resources. Growth in criminal control of large parts of the world’s mega-cities is seen as symp­ tomatic of this process. The activities of local war lords and criminal gangs are a growing problem throughout China, but especially in large cities like Guangzhou (formerly Canton) and Shanghai. Guangzhou, which lies within the province of Guangdong (economically the fastest growing region in the world), has been dubbed the ‘Wild West of the Far East’ (Harrison and Steinberger 1995). Tens of millions of people from other parts of China migrated to the province in search of work, driving its population up to 75 million. Many of these people have turned to forms of crime associated with the economic boom in the region; kidnapping of business people, drug smuggling and protection rackets. In recent years the death penalty has been extended, from treason and murder, to include crimes such as theft, drug-dealing, bribery and robbery with violence in recognition of these changes in Chinese society

Nation States and Super-States


- China executed over one thousand people in 1999 - more than any other state (Turner, 2003). Similarly, in Brazil the shanties of Rio de Janiero have been effec­ tively transformed by drug barons into ‘mini-states’ in which by drug barons, the civic authorities are unable to exercise any governance. According to the military analyst, van Creveld (1991), the future will be charac­ terised by sub-state wars that will be small scale conflicts fought by criminals, or by religious, ethnic or economic groups. These will be protracted conflicts, with little distinction between combatants and non-combatants. Such conflicts already exist in areas of Europe like the former Yugoslavia, and also in parts of Africa such as Sierra Leone and Liberia where the nation state has almost totally collapsed. The clear distinction between ‘war’ and ‘peace’ will disappear with consequent problems for those who wish to police the ‘New World Order’. Bellamy (1996), for example, argues that this will result in something close to the need to maintain a constant ‘war footing’, and that the role of the military with increasingly overlap with other profes­ sionals, such as aid workers - with consequent dangers for these other groups (for example the mass deaths resulting from a truck bomb placed in front of the United Nations building in Iraq in August 2003). As Seitz (2002) pointed out, six year after the end of the Cold War the world was still devoting US$ 1.4 million a minute to main­ taining this ‘war footing’. Any widespread drift towards anarchy may result in changing attitudes to interna­ tional intervention and the maintenance of a New World Order. Countries which have traditionally provided troops and resources for peace-keeping and humanitarian activities, such as Pakistan and Denmark, are likely to question their ability to main­ tain their commitments, while the US, Britain, and France, with relatively large mili­ tary resources, may reserve these only for actions which they consider as vital to their own national security or political and economic interests, for example the ‘war against terrorism’ following the 11 September attacks on the US. Jean-Christophe Rufin, adviser to the French Defence Ministry, has suggested that the withdrawal of the UN presence from Somalia in 1994 constitutes something of a prelude to a general abandonment of the South by the North, with intervention only taking place if chaos is likely to spill over into the North. He believes that the rich states will be tempted to create a division of the globe reminiscent of the Roman world, in which those peoples beyond the limit of empire will be demonised as the ‘new barbarians’ (quoted on BBC in 1995). This view is certainly supported by western media repre­ sentations of the crisis in the former Yugoslavia (Vujakovic 1993; Mestrovic 1994) and the ambivalent attitude of many politicians to the role of the UN and NATO in the former Yugoslavia. For some politicians, the containment of conflict in Europe’s southern borders, rather than humanitarian concerns, became the pragmatic justifica­ tion for committing and maintaining troops within the region. Withdrawal by the North from a truly global order is presaged by the ‘fortress Europe’ mentality, a reaction to large-scale economic migration, especially from the former Soviet bloc countries. However, the ‘ring-fencing’ of Europe, or US isolation­ ism, is unlikely to result in a division into hemispheres of order and chaos. There is evidence to suggest that contestation of the power of the state is also occurring in the North, as in the growth in the 1990s in the US of ‘militias’ groups opposed to what they saw as unwarranted Federal (state) control, or the gas attacks on Japanese metro trains by a fanatical religious sect (see Figure 5.4).

Contested Worlds


Globalisation: Challenging the Territorial State At the other end of the geographical scale, processes leading to a global society are also likely to undermine the power of the territorial state. Globalisation, as under­ stood by the sociologist Roland Robertson (cited in Dodds, 2000) is a process whereby social relations acquire borderless qualities as the world becomes increas­ ingly integrated and interdependent. The concept of one worldism is also based on the notion that the globe has become the principle unit of economic activity, in which national economies (based on the territorial state) are ‘reduced to complications of transnational activities’ (Hobsbawm 1994: 15) and where national governance is focused on increasing international political integration and addressing the concerns stemming from a growing awareness of the global impact of environmental problems (Taylor 1989). Globalisation does not, however, necessarily conflict with sub-state political movements, especially those associated with regionalism and decentralist green poli­ tics. Agnew and Corbridge (1995), point to the emergence of alternative political movements focused on human rights and ecological issues as a feature of globalisa­ tion threatening the primacy of the nation-state. Support for this is provided by the growth in number and membership of ttcw-governmental organisations (NGOs) worldwide: between 1909 and 1988 the number of mter-govemmental organisations

KAMIKUISHIKI J u ly 1994 Residents complain of eye and nose irritation, and nausea from unidentified fumes D e c e m b e r 1994 By-products of sarin discovered J a n u a r y 1995 Company president accused of spreading sarin into its religious facilities

NARA REGION 1 s t S e p te m b e r 1994 231 people from 7 towns suffer rashes and eye irritation from unidentified fumes




Figure 5.4: Japan gas attacks

MATSUMOTO 2 1 s t J u n e 1994 7 die, 200 affected by sarin fumes TOKYO 2 n d J u ly 1993 100 residents complain of noxious fumes 15th M arch 1995 3 attache cases of liquid with motorised fans, vents and battery found in subway station 2 1 s t M arch 1995 6 die, 3200 receive treatment after gas attack in subway

YOKOHAMA 5 th M arch 1995 19 complain of eye and respiratory pain from inhaling fumes on train

Nation States and Super-States


grew from 37 to only 309, while international NGOs increased in number from 176 to 4,518 (Princen and Finger 1994; O’Riordan, 2000). The global environmental movement is a notable instance of this new politics (Connelly and Smith 1999). Linked by email and international networking organisa­ tions, such as the Environmental Liaison Centre International (ELCI), NGOs have made important contributions to international policy and law. For example, the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, included NGO representatives as part of some 150 official national delega­ tions. The most successful example of the environmental movement’s impact on geopolitical affairs is Antarctica, where environmentalists contributed to a dramatic policy shift, from proposals to allow mining operations to commence in Antarctica to a moratorium on any such activity (see Box 5.10).

Box 5.10: Antarctica: From real-estate to world park Historically, a number of states have laid claim to sovereignty over parts of Antarctica (see Figure B5.10). However, under Article 4 of the Antarctic Treaty (ratified in 1961) these claims have remained in abeyance (Hansom and Gordon 1998; Phillips and Mighall, 2000). The treaty is in itself an unusual example of the ability of the international community to cooperate over an issue of territorial sovereignty, especially given the geopolitical issues concerned which include (Child 1988): -

Strategic control of sea-lanes, especially the key ‘choke point’ (Drake Passage) between Antarctica and South America. A potential focus of strategic military activities by the Cold War super­ powers. Rival claims to strategic resources, both known (ocean fisheries) and antic­ ipated (minerals).

The treaty was primarily inspired by fears that Antarctica would become a zone of military tension between the super-powers, and because of continued anxiety concerning the rival and overlapping claims of Argentina, Britain and Chile (Anderson 1993). The treaty banned all military activity and designated the region a nuclear free zone. The treaty states (twelve in 1961, growing to thirty-two in 1991) effectively manage Antarctica on behalf of the international community. During the 1980s, members of the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS) began negotiating guidelines for mining activities on the continent ( Convention on the Regulation o f Antarctic Mineral Resources Activities (CRAMRA)). The issue was immediately taken up by environmental non-governmental organisations, who lobbied for Antarctica to be designated a World Park and for a ban on all mining. The high profile activities of both international and domestic environ­ mental groups are believed to have had a decisive influence on the decision by two of the seven territorial claim states, Australia and France, to veto CRAMRA (Clark 1994; Hansom and Gordon 1998). Despite the shock that this

Contested Worlds


' a nt arctic Circu

Falklands (Malvinas]

Argentin Chile I or\0

Queen Maud

Weddell \S e a




\South Pole Byrd Land

Amundsen \ Sea


Ross Sea

1000 km

Ice shelf

Figure B5.10: National claims on Antarctica d ecision sent through the ATS, the World Park concept was taken up by Australia and France and led eventually to the 1991 Madrid Protocol on Environmental Protection , which im poses a fifty year ban on mining activity, although it does allow for mineral activity related to research (see Phillips and Mighall, 2000).

Ironically, one o f the principal technologies by which these new political m ovements are becom ing indisputably global has its roots in the defence o f national territory, that is the Internet. The ‘net’, which provides a global communications network for a multitude o f political groups, has its origins in the U S ’s attempt to create a multi­ centred computer communication system which would continue to function follow ­ ing a nuclear attack (H oldem ess 1994). The ‘net’ links m illions o f users world wide. Just as the railway and the telegraph allowed the state to master space during the nine­ teenth century, so personal global communications may presage the formation o f a

Nation States and Super-States


truly global village and the end of the territorial state. Unfortunately, the information revolution also provides opportunities for cyber-warfare that could result in wide­ spread chaos with information, communication and financial systems crippled; aircraft and other transport systems disabled; and electricity supplies disrupted. In cyber-war, cities would not be levelled by firestorms, but the consequences could be just as serious (Bellamy 1996).

Summary and Conclusions This chapter has focused on the nature of the state and its interactions with other states at the global scale. A number of key claims raised in the chapter are outlined in Box 5.11. The chapter began by discussing some general relationship between the state and geography, highlighting the territorial basis of state power and the connections and disjunctures between state territory and the spaces of national iden­ tity. The relationships between state power and identity are the subject of consider­ able contestation, a feature which will be explored in more depth in Chapter 8. The present chapter has focused more on the spatial scope of state power, looking at both the formation of territorial controls within and between nation-states. The chapter addresses aspects of state-power through the notions of ‘geopolitics’ and ‘geopolitial world orders’. In the later twentieth century there were suggestions that a US dominated ‘New World Order’ had arisen to replace the geopolitical order of the Cold War which had crumbled with the storming of the Berlin Wall and the slightly later dissolution of the Soviet Union. It has, however been argued that at present there is no clearly identifiable post-Cold War geopolitical world order despite US attempts to lead a New World Order. A range of alternative scenarios for the construction of a new world order are discussed, but overall post-Cold War geopolitics seems likely to remain in a state of flux, with complex political processes at the local and global scales as yet failing to mesh in a manner fully compliant with any of the proposed scenarios. Within this flux there is considerable scope for contestation, contestation which clearly has the potential to take the form of mili­ tarised conflict.

Box 5.11: Chapter summary and suggestions for further reading The arguments advanced in this chapter have been: -


The power of the state is founded on the geographical concept of territori­ ality. By controlling access to a defined space, the content (resources, population, infrastructure) of the territory can be directed by the sovereign power. The mastery of national space is dependent on the control geographical knowledge and modes of communication. New technologies and the globalisation of economics has affected the ability of sovereign states to retain control of their territories

188 -



Contested Worlds The actions of individual nation states takes place within a sets of interna­ tional relations that constitute ‘geopolitical world orders’ For much of the second-half of the twentieth there was a Cold War ‘bi­ polar world-order’, based on the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. Since the close of the Cold War there has been a geopolitical void that has not yet been demonstrably been filled by an alternative and stable world order. Processes operating at the sub- and super-state scales appear to be under­ mining some of the traditional roles of the territorial state in geopolitics. These processes may presage a significant change in the operation of the form of geopolitical world orders which have dominated international relations in the modem world.

References which provide a useful general introduction to concepts of the state, territoriality and geopolitics include Storey’s (2001) Territory : The Claiming o f Space , Dodds’ (2000) G eopolitics in a Changing World and Braden and Shelley’s (2000) Engaging G eopolitics (Harlow: Longman, 2000); more advanced texts include Taylor and Flint’s (2000) Political Geography , Agnew and Corbridge’s (1995) Mastering Space , Agnew’s (2002) Making Political Geography and Parker’s (1998) G eopolitics. Other useful contributions to contemporary debates include Kliot and Waterman’s (1991) The Political Geography o f Conflict and Peace , Taylor’s (1993) Political Geography o f the Twentieth Century: A G lobal Analysis and Dodds and Atkinson’s (2000) Geopolitical Traditions , while Breuilly’s (1993) Nationalism and the State provides a comprehensive historical and theoretical overview of the subject of the nation-state. Useful journals include Political Geography and International Affairs; the latter is particularly interesting for the views expressed by diplo­ mats and politicians as well as academics.

Part Three: Regional Worlds

Chapter 6

Inequalities at the Core: A Discussion of Regionality in the EU and UK Keith H oggart

Interpreting the Complexities of Inequalities This chapter will explore the inequalities which exist within the European Union, a region which is often seen as constituting one of the cores of the contemporary global economy and also, as discussed in Chapter 5, a potential candidate for geopolitical dominance. Central to the issue of what inequalities exist is the ques­ tion of what is meant by inequality. We must be careful not to confuse inequality with distinction, for inequality does not mean ‘difference’ in the way that cultures differ or social groups crave to pronounce their ‘uniqueness’ (Bourdieu 1984). Inequality implies distinctiveness along a dimension where one position is graded as better, bigger, larger or somehow superior to another. But what are the key dimensions of inequalities? Classical writings in sociology provide a clear message on this score. Here we find that three fundamental aspects of inequality are identified (Saunders 1993): class, pow er and status (see Box 6.1). Despite their centrality to conceptualisa­ tions of social hierarchies and the complex debates over their inter-relations (Scott, 1996), these three concepts still omit much that has interested geographers about inequality, as clearly evident in publications on the geography of social well-being that first appeared in the 1970s (see Box 6.2). Furthermore, dimensions of social difference that are central to studies of social well-being often cannot be translated directly onto a class, power or status hierarchy. Consider the quality of one’s housing as an illustration. Although it is a simplification of reality, let us assume that wealth is a direct derivative of social class position. Even here, personal or household wealth is not linked directly to housing quality. One reason is state intervention. Despite some criticism of the quality of housing provided by local councils and housing associations (Dunleavy 1981; Page 1993), low-income tenants of their properties occupy accom m odation that is far in excess of what they could afford in an open market place (Gauldie 1974; Nevitt 1978; Ryder 1984). This single example highlights an important message about inequal­ ity, which is that it has multiple, quasi-independent dimensions which overlap only in part.


Contested Worlds

Box 6.1: Class, power and status Class conceptions are widely derived from Marxist ideas about a person’s posi­ tion with regard to processes of employment. There are varying degrees of complexity in schemes denoting class differences (see for example, Goldthorpe 1987; Wright, 1978, 1985, 1999). At their most simple level, classes are said to distinguish those who own ‘means of production’ (factories, land, capital, etc.), who are referred to as the bourgeoisie, and those who are employed by the bourgeoisie, the working class or proletariat. From this perspective, most of those who are commonly referred to as middle class are in fact employees, and so belong to the working classes, although people such as Wright (1978, 1985, 1999) have argued that the middle classes are ‘contradictory class positions’ involving features of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. To exercise power is to get others to act in a way that is your own best inter­ ests, even though they might not wish to act in this way. Power should not be confused with resources (money, obligation, employees, etc.), for resources need to be used to achieve desired goals, and there is unevenness in the ability to use resources effectively to achieve desired ends. Power also does not mean complete compliance. An attempt to change someone’s behaviour might result in a compromise agreement, which still means that the end-product is closer to one’s own preferences. Assessments of power are interpretations, given the need to assess magnitudes of influence on behaviour outcomes. Status contrasts with class and power in that it refers to social prestige or respect. The way in which class, power and status do not overlap is readily seen for those who have a high level of prestige but who have insecure prospects as employees and exercise little power beyond their household. In farming areas a good example would be agricultural labourers who are recognised as very skilled workers by their colleagues, but who are paid low wages, have poor job security and are rarely able to persuade the broader community to respond to their wishes (Newby 1977). Note here that the status that agricultural workers can have in local communities is not reflected in their standing in national scales of occupational ranking. The basis and prestige of workers at a local level does not have to be reproduced beyond the locality. Similarly, those who exercise significant power locally might find their views carry little weight beyond the locality.

Box 6.2: Social well-being According to Coates et al. (1977: 9) social well-being refers to a family of over­ lapping concepts that include level of living, quality of life, social satisfaction, social welfare and standards of living. Nine basic components of social well­ being were identified by these researchers. These were nutrition, shelter,

Inequalities at the Core


health, education, leisure, security, social stability, the physical environment and surplus income. Central to work of this kind were questions of distribution - who gets what, when and where (Smith 1977, 1979). These concerns have been carried into present-day geography in considerations of social justice (e.g. Blacksell etal. 1991; Smith 1994).

Further issues are apparent if one considers a second example, namely the uneven use of public space. Here it has been shown that women commonly feeling excluded from particular places, at least at specific times of the day, for fear of violent crime (Pain 1997). This brings out a combination of insights on inequality in living conditions, ranging from their uneven impact on people in the same location, their temporal specificity (differences between day and night), and also the way in which non-events are integral to inequalities (Box 6.3), in the sense that neither the specific person nor any individual might have been the object of a violent or even potentially violent inci­ dent in a location, yet fear of such incidents circumscribes activity spaces. But how significant are such non-events? This is a matter of interpretation. We might be able to get a handle on aspects of this by asking people who visit a location about their feelings toward it at different points in time. But it is more difficult to get a sense of the intensity of feelings amongst those who do not visit a particular place. After all, many of these people might be unaware of the place or find little that attracts them to it. But the centrality of interpretation in assessments of inequalities is not restricted to non-events, nor is it simply a function of value differences. It is also a fundamental component of all considerations of inequality. As Box 6.4 shows, this applies equally well when the issue under consideration is clearly visible.

Box 6.3: Non-events and social inequality - air pollution in Gary, Indiana A good illustration of how a non-event can provide a significant clue to social inequity is provided in Crenson’s (1971) comparative investigation of East Chicago and Gary, Indiana. Here he revealed how the City of Gary was substantially dependent for its tax revenue on a (heavily polluting) manufactur­ ing plant owned by a large corporation (what was then US Steel). He argued that this dependence was linked to the failure of the City Council even to discuss the problem of air pollution, although this issue was regularly debated in the adjacent municipality of East Chicago (with no heavy economic depend­ ence on a polluting industry). As with other researchers who point to associa­ tions between economic dependency and limited local government action (e.g. Phelan and Pozen 1973; Friedman 1977; Blowers 1983), the causes for inaction need to be teased out by researchers. These causes are not directly visible, but the absence of activity when this should be expected theoretically can provide a clue to causal processes (e.g. Buller and Hoggart 1986). However, on account of this invisibility, interpretations of causation are contentious, with positivist


Contested Worlds

investigators rejecting any suggestion that what cannot be seen can be used as ‘evidence’ of a causal relationship (see Polsby 1980, on Crenson and also Chapter 2). Having noted this point, it should also be acknowledged that, in research on power relations, researchers are commonly required to make assumptions about causation, since much of the ‘real meat’ of causal processes is out of sight (Hoggart 1991). Whether due to commercial or political sensitiv­ ities, the corporations and governments that have a significant effect on our life-chances are not renowned for their openness in decision-making.

Box 6.4: Inequalities as interpretations: The case of New Haven’s power structure Even if processes of power exertion are considered relatively visible, investi­ gations of power relationships are self-evidently contentious. Following Hunter’s (1953) classic investigation, which indicated that Atlanta, Georgia, was controlled by a non-elected local business elite, Dahl’s (1961) book on New Haven came as a god-send for those who cherish the image of the USA as an ‘ideal’ democracy (‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’). With numerous researchers, using (aspects of) H unter’s methodology, concluding that city after city had an elitist power structure (i.e. a small, often unelected, group decided key decisions on the city’s future), Dahl provided what seemed like a convincing challenge to Hunter. Not only did he conclude that New Haven (Connecticut) had a pluralistic power structure (where government decisions did not favour particular groups and the general citi­ zenry did have a substantial influence on City Hall), but he also cast doubt on the applicability of Hunter’s methodology; arguing that it was inclined to favour elitist interpretations. Yet Dahl’s conclusions have likewise been chal­ lenged as flawed. As Domhoff (1978) makes clear, the problem with Dahl’s approach is that he focused on the City of New Haven, when the structure of US local government has resulted in the spatial segmentation of social classes, so many issues in central cities are of little relevance to the suburban wealthy (Johnston 1981; Cox and Jonas 1993). Domhoff shows that the policy decisions Dahl investigated were of minor importance to the m etropolitan economic elite, who tended to live in the suburbs. As a result, the image of a pluralist democracy that Dahl presented was an illusion. The structure of government was such that issues debated in the central city created few real challenges to wealthy suburban economic inter­ ests (Newton 1978).

As the example on Box 6.4 highlights, interpretations of inequality involve issues of geographical scale. The remit for this chapter is to examine social differentiation across locations. But while the central thrust of the material examined is concerned with inter-local differences, it must be emphasised that inter-local differences are

Inequalities at the Core


not equivalent to intra-local ones (Urry 1981). There is an abundance of illustrative

material on this score. In terms of electoral geography, for example, what is known as M iller's Paradox highlights how the local is not simply the national writ small (Box 6.5). Yet links between inter-local and intra-local inequities are not well conceptualised, a point which can be illustrated by research on income distributions. Until recently, the most notable geographical research on income differences focused on uneven average incomes across places. Occasionally, studies explicitly investigated income (e.g. Ray and Brewis 1976), but more commonly the issue arose in general treatments of regional economic performance (e.g. Clark et al. 1986). Sociologists and economists, by contrast, have long studied differences in intra­ local income disparities (e.g. Betz 1972; McGranahan 1980; Bloomquist and Summers 1982). Yet, despite efforts to instill theoretical insight into links between intra-local and inter-local social processes, the conceptualisations presented in such investigations are rather tenuous, with empirical analyses carrying a notably descriptive tone (e.g. Hoggart 1987, 1989). For this reason, even admitting its narrow focus on global cities , the ideas of Sassen (1991) and others on the peculiar forces that combine to promote social polarisation need to be treated seriously. Contained within global city ideas is recognition of the importance of city competi­ tion for higher level financial and control functions. The acquisition of these func­ tions is said to lead to a concentration of income and top occupational grades in global cities. It is argued that this has the spin-off effect of squeezing out middlelevel occupational ranks, as well as encouraging growth in low-skilled work to service the production (journey to work, office cleaning, security, etc.) and consumption demands of the best paid (child-care, home cleaning, entertainment, shopping, recreation, etc.). Persuasive as Sassen’s global city hypothesis might be in highlighting links between intra-local and inter-local income inequalities, it has not been subjected to sufficient rigorous evaluation.

Box 6.5: Miller’s paradox An intriguing inconsistency that has been identified for voting behaviour in the UK is the manner in which relationships between social class and ballot-box decisions have weakened over time at the level of individual voters, but have strengthened at the constituency level (Warde 1986). Put simply, while working class voters are now less likely to cast in favour of Labour and middle class voters have a lower propensity to support the Conservatives, the total Labour vote for a constituency is better predicted now than in the past by the share of constituency populations that are working class. The middle classes it seems are more inclined to vote Labour when higher proportions of the local popula­ tion have manual occupations, just as the working class vote for the Conservatives is higher where the local representation of professional and managerial workers is high. In similar vein, a different set of associations and causal relationships link the socio-economic standing of areas to public service provision at inter-local and intra-local government levels (Burnett 1985; Hoggart 1991). The simple message is that both localised and translocal


Contested Worlds

inequalities need to be considered when assessing socio-economic processes. Those living in administrative areas that in general are poorly served on a national scale might find themselves with high service standards for their administrative unit (e.g. Bradley et a l 1978), such that certain neighbourhoods within such administrations might be well served in national terms. A primary reason for this, which restates Domhoff’s criticism of Dahl (Box 6.3), is that the geographical scale at which global city relationships should be specified is open to question. If we are examining differences in local government service quality, it is relatively easy to conceptualise affected populations, for (usually) there are clear geographical boundaries for local authorities. Owing to the impact of commuting, decentralisation of (linked) office or manufacturing functions, and migration, the same cannot be said for global cities. Here administrative boundaries to demarcate arenas of global city impacts are not self-evident. Researchers inevitably end-up using arbitrarily drawn boundaries for the areas they investigate. This raises substan­ tial problems for investigations. Thus, in Hamnett’s (1996) thorough evaluation of London, he concludes that there is little support for Sassen’s hypothesis that occupa­ tions in the capital are becoming increasingly polarised. But Hamnett only examines the London metropolitan area (the Greater London Authority area). Yet ever since the 1938 London Green Belt Act, urban growth in the capital has been encouraged to leapfrog the green belt, so settlements at seemingly ever greater distances from Charing Cross are tightly bound into a metropolitan-centred region. Some would argue that the green belt merely emphasised what had long existed, a message which is well articulated in Mackinder’s observations: In a manner all southeastern England is a single urban community; for steam and electricity are changing our geographical conceptions. A city in an economic sense is no longer an area covered continuously with streets and houses ... The metropolis in its largest meaning includes all the counties for whose inhabitants London is ‘Town’, whose men do habitual business there, whose women buy there, whose morning paper is printed there, whose stan­ dard of thought is determined there. East Anglia and the West of England possess a certain independence by virtue of their comparatively remote position, but, for various reasons, even they belong effectively to Metropolitan England (Mackinder 1907: 258).

Through New Town policies, London over-spill, and organisations like the Location of Offices Bureau, for some decades London’s enterprises were officially encouraged to move from the capital, to other parts of the South East or even further afield. As a consequence, the effective area within which the income and occupational effects of London’s global city standing are played out extends well beyond the administra­ tively defined metropolitan area (Warnes 1991; Champion and Congdon 1992). Changes in socio-economic standing are perhaps more appropriately investigated by placing London in the context of the wider South East (see Hamnett 1986). Yet, once we incorporate areas beyond the green belt, the impact of London’s global city stand­ ing becomes harder to establish, for relationships become extremely complex, as the impression made by being part of London’s urban field intersects and interacts with more localised assertions of occupational and income diversity.

Inequalities at the Core


Further complexity arises from cross-national differences . This is something that Hamnett (1996) commendably draws attention to by emphasising that dissimilar welfare systems or regimes have distinctive impacts on the nature of inequalities between households and individuals. There is abundant evidence that nations develop distinctive welfare regimes as a result of cultural traditions, political compromises and controversial ‘events’ that spark or nurture specific forms of social provision (Ashford 1986). Understanding cross-national differences is critical to a fuller understanding of social inequality. This is not simply a matter of noting differences today but also of appreciating how nations respond differently to globalisation trends. To illustrate this we can examine the decentralisation of economic activities from cities. Reflecting the dynamism of economic systems, the geographical literature of the 1960s and 1970s was full of foreboding over the future of rural areas. Large cities, pundits claimed, were to be the power houses of national economies, with smaller places being hauled along in their wake - receiving spread benefits but not catching up (e.g. Berry 1970). How different from the 1980s and 1990s, when the same commentators highlighted the negative consequences of diseconomies in large cities and their unattractive social conditions (e.g. Berry 1980b). Today the arenas of rapid economic growth are different from the past, for the requirements of high-tech industries and the desires of manufac­ turers to introduce new working practices, steer investment away from traditional industrial heartlands (Hall et al. 1987; Mair 1992). At the same time, improvements in telecommunications, and sharper demand for office space in major metropolitan centres, has resulted in the decentralisation of lower-level office functions, as a cost saving measure (Marshall and Raybould 1993). This has led to complex organisational forms compared with the past (Li 1995; Lorentzon 1995). But what has decentralisa­ tion meant for changes in the spatial economy? The answer lies partly in the nature of the national political economy. A comparison of the UK with Germany can be used to illustrate this. In the case of the UK, the economy has been highly centralised, in terms of its corporate control functions , with London at the apex and other centres falling a long way behind. This is readily seen in the location of corporate headquarters for the largest firms in Europe (Figure 6.1). By contrast, in Germany, where the political struc­ ture is more decentralised and provincial governments (the lander) have considerable political authority (e.g. Jeffrey 1996), corporate head offices are more dispersed. In part this difference reflects divergences in political history, with Germany seeing the coming together of small states to create the present nation-state only in the nineteenth century (Borchardt 1991; see also Chapter 5), as opposed to the UK’s evolution of into centralised, nationally-unified power structure over many centuries (Bulpitt 1983). Perhaps not surprising, then, pressures which encourage corporations to decentralise white collar workers from London produce few transfers beyond South East England (Marshall 1988: 84-88). Yet even for producer services, in Germany urban decentrali­ sation is inducing growth in peripheral regions (Jaeger and Durrenberger 1991). Where does this place us with regard to understanding the patterning of socio­ economic inequalities? First, in emphasising that inequalities are complex. The dimensions which are seen as most critical, their degree of overlap, the extent to which non-events are as important as events, and the different geographical scales over which processes need to be evaluated, all point to the centrality of interpretation and argument in evaluating social inequalities. Second, even within an accepted inter­ pretative mould, patterns of inequity are subject to temporal shifts, some rapid and

Contested Worlds


Corporate headquarters

2 3-6 7-10


London 1 0 4 1 (suburbs 1 5 ) *


Maris 4 3 (suburbs 29)

Canary Islands


Madeira 0



(Islands not to scale) Figure 6.1: The location of the headquarters of the largest 500 manufacturing firms in Europe, 1994 Note: Only centres with at least two headquarters are shown on this map. Source: Time Books (1995)

Inequalities at the Core


others more gradual, which produce uneven impacts on people and places. Third, socio­ economic change, and by implication inequalities across geographical zones and social groups, is conditioned by and itself helps condition national cultures (and regional and local cultures as well). Lastly, there is no direct correspondence between patterns of differentiation across locations and those that exist within them. This is a wider point than warning against the errors of the ecological fallacy (Robinson 1950); of assuming that a correlation between two social attributes that holds for area-units also pertains to individuals (cf. Warde 1986). Embodied within this point is recognition that many inequities that are visible at the intra-local level are disguised or not identifiable at the inter-local level (and possibly vice-versa). This is a significant caveat that must be set against this chapter, for its principal focus is on disparities between localities. In addressing this issue, the approach adopted has been to extract materials to illustrate the complexities and nuances of the geographical patterning of social inequality. In doing so efforts will be made to explore how globalisation, national cultures, sectoral changes and the organisation of corporate control, find expression in social inequities. This will be undertaken through an exploration of distinctions within the European Union and then, providing a finer tuning to examine temporal change and interactions between social processes, through a more detailed investigation of the geography of socio­ economic standings within the UK.

Describing a European Economic Mosaic Expressed in terms of gross domestic product (or GDP) per head, the wealth map of the European Union reveals a pattern of extremely low ratings in the South, with a band running from northern Italy through Austria and southern Germany as high spots. Outliers on this pattern include large cities like Hamburg, London, Paris and Stockholm, at the upper end, with the least wealthy group containing the Atlantic islands of Portugal (Azores, Madeira) and the overseas departements of France (Guadelope, Guyane, Martinique, Reunion). Highlighting the low standing of the South, if we examine the 19 sub-national regions on the European continent with the lowest GDP rates (this is the lowest 25 in the EU when the six overseas territories are excluded), we find seven in Greece, three in Portugal and three in Spain, with five in (the former East) Germany (Table 6.1). Despite the widely recognised economic problems of southern Italy (King 1987), only one region from this area appears in the bottom nineteen. The same single number, pertaining to the same region (Calabria), held for 1983, although for this year figures for the former East Germany are not considered accurate and have been excluded from the calculations (European Commission 1996: 134). Put simply, despite a lower income bias toward the South, there is no clean sweep of poverty stricken areas across the south of the continent, although the southern Italian GDP figures are below the EU mean average (European Commission 1996: 22). Likewise, we should not conceptualise northern European nations as universally wealthy, even in a relative sense. Even if the eastern lander of Germany are taken to be exceptional, much of Finland, Ireland, significant elements of northern and southwestern France, large tracts of the UK, and a scattering of regions in Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden, all have per capita GDP figures that fall below the EU average. Moreover, unlike southern and Mediterranean Spain, the

Contested Worlds


Lisbon and Norte areas in Portugal, Ireland and the Rome region of Italy, most of these northern European zones had GDP growth rates some way below the EU average over the 1983-1993 period. For that decade, the real growth areas in the Union were in the Netherlands, central and coastal Spain and in those regions that bordered on Czechoslovakia and the east German lander (Figure 6.2). The important point here is the complex geography of income distribution. Thus, in terms of GDP per head, the wealthiest parts of the EU include some major cities (London, Paris, Rome, Stockholm), some intermediate cities (Antwerp, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Vienna), and some areas that are not known as major urban nodes (Scotland’s Grampian region for one, albeit Aberdeen is in this area, with Luxembourg and Salzburg as further examples; Figure 6.3; Table 6.1).

Table 6.1: GDP per head in the richest and poorest regions of the EU, 1993 Rank

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

189 183 164 164 162 161 158 154 144 141 137 134 132 131 127 127 127 127 125 125 123 122 121 119 119

Richest 25 regions GDP EU= 100

Poorest 25 regions GDP EU= 100

Hamburg (Germany) Brussels (Belgium) Paris/Ile de France (France) Darmstadt (Germany) Luxembourg Vienna (Austria) Oberbayem (Germany) Bremen (Germany) Greater London (UK) Stuttgart (Germany) Antwerp (Belgium) Grampian (UK) Lombardy (Italy) Valle d’Aosta (Italy) Karlsruhe (Germany) Mittelfranken (Germany) Emilia-Romagna (Italy) Ahvenanmaa (Finland) Salzburg (Austria) Trentino-Alto Adige (Italy) Dusseldorf (Germany) Liguria (Italy) Rome/Lazio (Italy) Fruili-Venezia Guilia (Italy) Stockholm (Sweden)

37 42 42 42 47 47 49 50 52 52 52 53 54 55 55 56 57 57 58 58 59 59 60 60 61

Source: European Commission (1996: 134)

Guadeloupe (France) Azores (Portugal) Alentejo (Portugal) Madeira (Portugal) Reunion (France) Ipeiros (Greece) Centro (Portugal) Voreio Aigaio (Greece) Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Germany) Martinique (France) Thurginen (Germany) Sachsen (Germany) Sachsen-Anhalt (Germany) Dytiki Ellada (Greece) Extremadura (Spain) Iona Nisia (Greece) Guyane (France) Brandenburg (Germany) Kriti (Greece) Andalucfa (Spain) Algarve (Portugal) Thessalia (Greece) Galicia (Spain) Antoliki Macedonia, Thraki (Greece) Calabria (Italy)


Inequalities at the Core


>3.25 2 .7 5 - 3.25

n i

i n.d.

Canary Islands


2 .2 5 - 2.75 1.7 5- 2.25 118 1 0 6 -1 1 8 9 4 -1 0 6 8 2 -9 4